Philippine food giant Jollibee expanding worldwide, from US to China

25, Aug. 2021

Jollibee's Chickenjoy fried chicken is a hot favorite in many countries. (Photo: JFC)
Jollibee's Chickenjoy fried chicken is a hot favorite in many countries. (Photo: JFC)

By Darlene Basingan

MANILA, NNA – Philippine fast-food giant Jollibee Foods Corp. (JFC) is poised for an aggressive global expansion in China, Europe and North America, egged on by a robust recovery after being trounced by the COVID-19 pandemic last year.

Earlier this month, the $4 billion global restaurant operator said it will open 100 Tim Ho Wan dim-sum eateries in China over the next four years after upping its 85 percent stake in the award-winning Hong Kong chain to total ownership.

Currently, Tim Ho Wan runs more than 50 outlets, mostly franchises, and mainly in Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Philippines. Shanghai has a few stores.

In June, JFC said it will fork out 12.2 billion pesos (about $242 million) in its biggest ever annual capital outlay to hasten the expansion of eateries in the Philippines as well as overseas this year.

Earlier in April, the company announced it was investing 50 million euros ($69 million) to boost its presence in Europe by opening 50 stores in the next five years.

Since the start of this year, Jollibee has opened 15 new locations in North America, with a target for 500 stores there in the next five to seven years.

All these moves show it is seriously eyeing the huge potential of post-pandemic growth across the globe, undeterred by how the pandemic has shut down many stores and delivered further losses since last year.

While acquisitions of America's burger chain Smashburger and coffee chain The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Company in recent years have dragged down JFC's performance, it sees big opportunities beyond the more than 1,000 Coffee Bean stores across the globe.

In May, it roped in an industry veteran to grow Coffee Bean in high-potential markets in the US and India and boost its omni-channel presence.

Sanjiv Razdan, the Coffee Bean president for these two markets, said he would continue to take the brand to new markets to help advance JFC's goal of becoming "one of the top five restaurant groups in the world".

Controlled by billionaire Tony Tan Caktiong, the company has expanded to the UK with a plan to open 10 Chickenjoy fast-food stores this year, starting with the launch off its flagship location for the European market in Leicester Square in London in May.

Jollibee fast-food chain is well-known for its Chickenjoy's crispy fried chicken, which was first brought to Europe when it set up a Milan store in Italy in 2018.

To ensure European quality and its own standards, Jollibee obtains chickens from reputable British and European suppliers. It also offers Asian flavors to UK diners, such as mango coconut sundae, and Asian chicken rice bowl.

“While we pride ourselves on our delicious menu, we knew we could do more to enhance the overall restaurant experience for our UK customers,” said William Tan Untiong, chief real estate officer of JFC.

Dennis Flores, its regional business head for Europe, Middle East, Asia, and Australia, said the 50 million euros investment in Europe demonstrates the company's resolve to be a major player in Europe's quick-service market.

“The pandemic may have been a setback, but it will not deter us from pursuing our vision for Jollibee in the UK and the rest of Europe,” he said.

One of the fastest-growing Asian food companies in the world, JFC suffered a loss of 11.5 billion pesos (about $236 million) in 2020. After in the red for three-quarters, it turned in a profit in the fourth quarter last year after restructuring its operations which included the closure of 486 stores.

It believes overseas operations will drive sales and profit growth in 2021 and the years ahead.

In addition, Jollibee has been expanding online sales through third-party food delivery apps, apart from launching its own delivery app in August last year.

JFC operates over 5,800 stores in 33 countries, such as Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Indonesia, Costa Rica, Egypt, Panama, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan.

Under its umbrella are eight wholly-owned brands such as Jollibee, Chowking, Greenwich, Red Ribbon, Mang Inasal, Yonghe King, Hong Zhuang Yuan, and Smashburger, plus five franchised brands including Burger King, Panda Express, PHO24 in the Philippines, and Dunkin' Donuts.

JFC has 80 percent ownership of Coffee Bean, and a 60 percent stake in the SuperFoods Group that owns Highlands Coffee and PHO24 brands.

JFC has a business venture with award-winning chef Rick Bayless for Tortazo, a Mexican fast-casual restaurant business in the US. It also established a joint venture to operate and expand Japan's beef rice bowl chain Yoshinoya in the Philippines.