Jollibee pursues aggressive push in US, Canada

Lawrence Agcaoili - The Philippine Star
Jollibee pursues aggressive push in US, Canada
Jollibee and JFC North America president Jose Miñana (right) mingle with the crowd who queued up for as long as 20 hours and braved the heavy rains as well as cold weather to witness the opening of its first store in Manhattan, New York.

NEW YORK — From London last week, the busy bee has flown to the “City that Never Sleeps.”

As it moved to aggressively expand in the United States and Canada and be among the top five restaurant chains in the world, popular fast-food restaurant Jollibee took another bite out of the “Big Apple” when it opened its first store in Manhattan in New York City last Saturday morning.

Jose Miñana, Jollibee Foods Corp. (JFC) group president for North America, led the opening of its second store in New York state after the first in Woodside, Queens in 2009.

The opening drew long lines of customers who queued for hours and braved the heavy rains as well as the three-degree-Celsius temperature to be among the first to finally get their hands on the “crispylicious” and “juicylicious” Chickenjoy.

Justin Callan of Coney Island in New York and his Filipina fiancée Faye Javier of Taytay, Rizal in the Philippines waited for about 20 hours, beating the 18-hour waiting time during the opening of the Jollibee store in London last Oct. 20.

“I have never seen any opening and we have never opened in the history of Jollibee somebody who has lined up the morning before, it is the night before, the day before but not the morning before,” Miñana said.

The couple, who queued at exactly 11:58 a.m. last Friday, has been to different Jollibee stores around the world, including the Philippines, Toronto and Hawaii.

“We came in yesterday morning, we just wanted to be out here, experience this in person and we powered through it between the rain and the weather was alright. Jollibee is all about family and love,” Callan said.

Callan and Javier received a one-year free supply of Chickenjoy, a limited edition Jollibee Funko Pop figures, Jollibee dolls and other collectibles.

The line of customers stretching along 8th Avenue and 40th street braved the heavy rains, strong winds and cold weather leading to the opening of the Manhattan branch at 8 a.m. of Saturday.

Paolo Bautista, another Filipino from Malabon City and whose family is now based in New York, queued wearing his Jollibee costume at around 4 a.m. or four hours before opening time.

Bautista, together with other customers who wore Jollibee costumes, were rewarded exclusive Jollibee Funko Pop figures.

Barely two hours after it opened its doors, the new store was already servicing its 150th customer.

Miñana said Jollibee’s Manhattan branch opening brings the number of Jollibee stores in North America to 41 – 37 in the US and four in Canada.

Maribeth dela Cruz, vice president and general manager for JFC North America, said the store in Manhattan has 67 employees, of which 15 are foreigners and the rest are Filipinos.

“We hope that the people of Manhattan will come and experience for themselves why people line up for a taste of Jollibee,” she said.

Jollibee opened its first store in London, where there are around 125,000 Filipinos, last Oct. 20.

The largest restaurant company in the Philippines and Asia, however, is not about to stop yet serving the world-famous Chickenjoy, Jolly Spaghetti and Peach Mango Pies to about 3.5 million Filipinos in North America, according to Miñana.

“Definitely we have aggressive plans to expand both in the US and Canada. We are finalizing our plans in terms of the number, etc., but we are laying out our plans looking at sites in different areas,” he said.

Jollibee opened its first store in North America in Daly City, California in 1998. Now, it has presence in the states of Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Texas, Washington and Virginia in the US as well as Manitoba and Ontario in Canada.

Miñana said Jollibee is opening another store in Las Vegas next month as it continues to look for additional sites in the US and Canada.

“We are opening still a few more this year. We are opening in Las Vegas this November, and next year, we will also be opening a good number in the US and Canada. This will continue in the next five years,” he said.

Jollibee has 222 international branches in the US, Canada, Hong Kong, Brunei, Vietnam, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Italy, Macau and the United Kingdom. It has more than 1,000 stores in the Philippines.

“We are excited to finally open our doors in the heart of bustling Manhattan, which is not just a center of business and finance but a major cultural entertainment hub that receives millions of visitors from around the world each year. The diversity of the food culture and the fast pace of living here make it perfect for our new Jollibee store location,” he said.

Miñana pointed out that the company is also targeting to cross to non-Filipino customers.

“This is one step toward that,” he said, referring to the Manhattan branch opening.

“There are only 10,000 Filipinos here in Manhattan, but we are beside the Port Authority and the subway to capture those from Jersey and Queens who come here. Filipinos can bring other friends,” he said.

The Jollibee Group, including Jollibee, Chowking, Greenwich, Red Ribbon, Mang Inasal, Yonghe King and Hong Zhuang Yuan, currently has 4,200 stores in 20 countries worldwide amid its aggressive international expansion plan.

It plans to open 50 stores across Europe in the next five years, with 25 in the United Kingdom alone, while the other half will be scattered across the continent with Madrid or Barcelona in Spain as the next targets.

The fast-food giant also plans to expand in Asia, including Vietnam, Brunei, Singapore and Hong Kong. It also plans to expand to Malaysia, particularly in Kota Kinabalu this year.

“We have our dream and vision to become one of the top five restaurant companies in the world. When our founders said they wanted to be number one in the Philippines, with the giants, and we are. Later on, we said we wanted to be number one in Asia and then we are. So, now we want to be one of the top five in the world,” Miñana said.

JFC recently acquired an 85-percent stake in Smashburger as well as a 60-percent stake in SuperFoods Group that owns Highland Coffee and PHO24. It recently entered into an agreement with award-winning chef Rick Bayless to build a Mexican casual restaurant business in the US.

JFC has investments in Titan Dining LP, the ultimate holding company of Tim Ho Wan Pte Ltd., the master franchisee of Tim Ho Wan in the Asia-Pacific region, excluding Hong Kong.




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