Are the Brits ready for Philippine-style hamburgers and friend chicken?
Jollibee Food Corporation is betting that UK consumers will make the Philippines’ number one fastfood company a hit. So confident is Jollibee that their next major branch will be opened this year in London, not too far from Buckingham Palace, the official residence as well as administrative headquarters of Queen Elizabeth.
Scheduled for a May 20 opening, the latest Jollibee branch is not the first in the UK – the first branch was opened in London in 2018, followed by outlets in Leicester and Liverpool – its location at the West End places it in the middle of such landmarks as Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, and the London Eye.
Specifically, the new branch will be located at Leicester Square in London’s West End, considered one of England’s prime commercial centers.
In a statement to media, Jollibee CEO Ernesto Tanmantiong said, “Bringing Jollibee to London’s West End is part of our continued commitment to expand in Europe and bring our delicious Chickenjoy to more people around the world.”
Dennis Flores, the company’s regional head for Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Australia added: “Opening in central London in such an iconic location is a huge step forward for Jollibee. Behind the scenes, we have been perfecting our new menu items as well as planning our brand new restaurant design.”
The company’s UK clientele comprise around 75 percent British locals.
Tanmantiong said the Jollibee Group is planning to open 450 restaurants worldwide across its brands this year, with 50 to be located in Europe by 2025. The expansion includes Jollibee’s first ever branch in Spain, specifically in Madrid.
Other areas where Jollibee plans to establish new restaurants include Scotland, and Cardiff, Wales.
The Jollibee CEO said their long-term plan is to be among the top five restaurant operators in the world.
The Jollibee Group has more than 5,800 restaurants around the world. In Europe, the chain opened its fourth outlet in Rome in October, last year.
The Philippine-based Jollibee targeted areas with large Filipino expat populations as part of its global outreach. Three years ago, the company began offering its crispy fried chicken, along with dishes that were outside the norm in most countries, including a sweet spaghetti with slices of hot dogs instead of meat balls, as well as pineapple-topped hamburgers.
The marketing formula worked, with Filipino expats excitedly welcoming the arrival of their hometown favorite with 72-hour queues not unheard of. Filipinos in the UK, for example, were known to travel long distances such as Edinburgh to London just to get a taste of Jollibee’s Chickenjoy.
So successful has been the company’s version of fried chicken that Jollibee is now the Philippines’ top seller of the product, outselling the likes of KFC friend chicken.
As a burger outlet, Jollibee also outsells on a store-by-store basis global leader McDonald’s.
While 2020 was not a good year for the company, forcing it to close more than 450 outlets, mostly in the Philippines, the fastfood restaurant sees 2021 as a recovery and growth period.
Aside from the flagship store in London opening this month, Jollibee is also opening another major outlet in another iconic location, Times Square in New York.
The company recently signed a contract to lease a 7,127 square-foot store at 1500 Broadway, between West 43rd and 44thstreets.
A publicly-listed company in the Philippine Stock Exchange, Jollibee began as an ice cream parlor at the ground floor of a movie house in Cubao, Quezon City back in 1975. Its founder was Tony Tan Caktiong, who was then in his 20s. He renamed his ice cream parlor Jollibee in 1978.