From Ice Cream Parlor to Fast Food Empire: The Success Story of Jollibee and Tony Tan Caktiong
Jollibee had been with us (millennials) since we were kids. We’ve always celebrated birthdays and graduation at Jollibee. But have you ever thought of how our childhood fast food chain started?
Born as the third child of seven siblings, the expenses were too much for the parents so they moved to the Philippines from Fujian province in China. His father was a chef in a Chinese Temple. But soon after his father got a business opportunity in Davao. There in the South, they opened a restaurant business where-in every family member worked hands-on. The business went well which afforded for Tony to return to Manila and study Chemical Engineering in University of Santo Tomas (UST).
“It wasn’t long before we headed the multinationals coming in – including McDonald’s. Friends started asking us if we were going to get a McDonald’s franchise, but I remember saying if you franchise you cannot grow outside the Philippines.”
“If we eat anything sweet; we don’t really think it’s sweet. But try giving it to a foreigner and they’d be surprised.”
“Filipino’s also like to smell their food before they eat it. They want to be sure it smells delicious before they take a bite. Sometimes they would open a kettle and say, What’s this? It smells good! This was proved by the Langhap-Sarap advertising campaign by Basic :[Foorcone and Belding). They did it for us initially for the hamburger, and when it became successful, we started using it as a campaign slogan for other products.”
“Before it was simple, now there’s a formal structure. There are big research and development (R&D) department and a marketing department. The marketing department creates inputs from customers and the products they like, and then communicate that to R&D. R&D then develops it. We have an internal taste panel that tastes the food and comment on it, and when a formulation is needed, they do it. The next step is the consumer panel test. We have the product taste-tested by the consumers, and it it’s okay we test the product in a few stores. Before it was easy, but now it takes three to six months to roll out a new product. Another time-consuming process is training our people on how to prepare and serve the new product.”
Our latest acquisition was Red Ribbon Bakeshop including last 2005 to include cakes, rolls, bread, and pastries in their line of products. For us to sustain a good growth rate on a long-term basis, we have to continue acquiring a business.
At one time they had a convenience store called Bingo. It had 20 stores, but they had to let it go because supplying them was hard. They also acquired a company in China called Yonghe King which already has 91 stores. They are still planning how many stores should there be to accommodate 1.3 Billion Chinese.
Many countries share our taste in food. And the opportunity is in going to China, India, and Indonesia – countries with large populations.” According to Tony.
“If you have to ask the secret of Jollibee’s success is sharing. We share our success with people we give good compensation. We share any honor that comes our way. Actually, this idea of sharing did not come from me. It came from a friend, He said, You know why you’re successful? You know how to share. A lot of people do not share, but in Jollibee, you share a lot with your people.”