SINGAPORE: In 1975, a young man named Tony Tan Caktiong opened an ice-cream shop in Manila.
Three years later, the Tan Caktiong family picked up on a bigger local appetite for hot meals and sandwiches, and Jollibee – a small restaurant chain serving a Filipino take on fast food – was born.
By early 2019, Jollibee was selling its hot-favourite Chickenjoy and Jolly Spaghetti special in more than 1,000 restaurants in the Philippines – beating out Burger King and McDonald’s in both popularity and market share.
But like its addictive fried chicken bucket, it was just not enough.
Jollibee Foods, whose founder and chairman is now a billionaire several times over, is on a mission to conquer the world. And with a ballpark of 4,000 stores under 14 brands in 20 countries, it is well on its way.
Here is a timeline of Jollibee’s rapid (and lip-smacking) climb towards realising its vision of becoming one of the top five restaurant companies in the world.
ROAD TO CHINA
In January 2016, following a spate of more low-profile acquisitions, Jollibee Foods entered a joint venture to be the exclusive operator of Dunkin’ Donuts in China, reportedly with plans to launch 1,400 stores in the world’s second-largest economy over 20 years.
DIM SUM DEAL
2018 marked a major boost in Jollibee’s international profile, starting with its S$45 million investment in a fund set to become the master franchise holder of Michelin-starred dim sum chain Tim Ho Wan.
This means Jollibee now has a substantial stake in the running of all the Tim Ho Wan joints in the region, except in Hong Kong where the restaurant popular for its barbecue pork buns was founded in 2009.
SMASHING THE BURGER MARKET
In December 2018, Jollibee became the owner of classic American burger brand Smashburger, which has more than 300 outlets across the US, UK and Canada, plus a handful in Saudi Arabia.
The move put the Filipino company in a solid position to compete with big names like Five Guys and Shake Shack in the “better burger” segment.
That same month, Jollibee put on its sombrero in a bid to challenge the world’s top fast food operators, investing US$12.4 million (S$16.9 million) for a nearly 50 per cent stake in Tortas Fronterra.
The US Mexican food brand serves pork, beef and chicken sandwiches with sides of guacamole and salsa.
Even with its worldwide, cross-flavour expansion, Jollibee’s biggest business has always been its namesake Philippine-born brand – but that is set to change with the company’s US$350 million purchase of US-based specialty coffee and tea chain Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf.
In the Philippine Stock Exchange filing, Tan Caktiong described the acquisition as Jollibee’s “largest and most multinational so far with business presence in 27 countries” – giving the Jollibee vision a massive caffeine boost.