Is Jollibee Popular in America?

Redbook Magazine ranked Jollibee as the fourth best fast-food fried chicken in the United States, surpassing McDonald's and KFC. On a cold day in New York City, a few steps from Times Square, a line of people formed; they are neatly grouped by a rope in front of an unpretentious building nestled among the city's many skyscrapers. A man stands guard by the door, asking people how many people are in his group and marking the beginning of only a few at a time. A big part of Jollibee's secret sauce is its menu, which is eclectic by American fast-food standards.

Offerings vary by location, but there are fan favorites. Some say that Chickenjoy is even better than Kentucky Fried Chicken. Kentucky Fried Chicken Did Not Reply to CNBC Make It Request for Comment. Fans love menu items like Fiesta Noodles (a recreation of the pancit palabok, a noodle dish with ingredients such as shrimp, minced meat and hard-boiled eggs); Breakfast Joy Corned Beef (served with garlic rice and a fried egg); and for dessert, Philippine peach and mango pie or Halo-Halo (a mix of crushed ice, ube and jackfruit ice cream, milk flan and jellies).

Prices are similar to other fast foods, and Jollibee has stores in California, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Virginia and Washington State. Its overall strategy in the United States is to open in areas with denser Filipino American populations, to give them a familiar feel of home. In the Philippines, most kids have Jollibee birthday parties; we don't have McDonald's birthday parties. It's funny because fried chicken is traditionally not Filipino food, but somehow Chickenjoy is - which is a little weird and surprising.

Maribeth Dela Cruz, President of Jollibee North America says authenticity will be critical as the chain expands. To build an international brand in the US with that in mind, Jollibee's goal is to offer a unique and differentiated product to differentiate itself from US players. Jollibee is renowned for its fried chicken plus a burger made with an exclusive dressing and spaghetti topped with Jollibee's sweet sauce and thick slices of ham, minced meat and hot dogs. The menu also showcases the brand's Philippine roots such as the Fiesta de Palabok which Jollibee describes as a “traditional dish of Filipino noodles topped with garlic sauce, crushed pork rind, shrimp and egg”.

In addition to authenticity Dela Cruz highlights Jollibee's ability to “serve joy in every way we can” to consumers. The company calls it FSC or food service and cleaning standards. Jollibee plans to build stores with double drive-thrus more outdoor seating curbside parking spaces and designated mobile ordering areas within restaurants. Operationally Jollibee has faced the same headwinds as most of the industry.

Dela Cruz points out that rising commodity costs particularly with chicken has been a challenge but adds that Jollibee has forged strong relationships with suppliers especially for the raw materials that make up its best-selling items. In terms of labor the US president says that turnover has remained relatively low which she attributes to a culture that focuses on a spirit of family and fun. For newer stores the application rate has been slower but that just means that Jollibee must remain competitive with salary rates and the training and development opportunities it offers says Dela Cruz. And then once the workers are in it's a matter of making sure they stay engaged.

Dela Cruz has found that labor shortages affecting other industries have affected Jollibee too. For example some restaurants are ready to open but you have to wait a long time for city inspectors. Jollibee plans to reach 300 locations in North America by 2024 well beyond the 12 Canadian states and four provinces in which it currently resides. This year alone the brand will open 28 locations including downtown Chicago downtown Times Square and the first store in downtown Vancouver.

Once they are filled the plan is to expand beyond those areas and Dela Cruz believes there is demand for such a movement. Worship of Jollibee is also on fire on Instagram with more than half a million posts dedicated to the fast-food establishment. Amazing Aloha Jollibee's burgers are certainly popular but nowadays when good burgers are everywhere they haven't really stood out with one very bold exception. The Daily Meal acknowledged that Jollibee has gained a following in places scattered across the United States mainly in California.

Tristan Gagliardo
Tristan Gagliardo

Proud social media ninja. Bacon expert. Unapologetic gamer. Proud zombie nerd. Freelance pop culture scholar.

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