Jollibee. A mention of that name is enough to make a Filipino kid smile, especially when the jolly red bee comes into the picture.
It’s a hit among the adults, too. Those who are craving for a snack or a full meal any time of the day know which numbers to dial.
The brand also surpasses foreign competitors such as McDonald’s in terms of local sales, according to a Nikkei Asian Review article.
Known for its “crispylicious, juicylicious” Chickenjoy, as well as its Yum! burgers, there’s no doubt that homegrown fast food brand Jollibee has beewn embedded in the country’s popular culture.
But despite its menu’s popularity in the savory department, did you know that neither of their bestselling meals is the very first product it offered?
Yes, it’s true. So what is the first food item they offered? Shanghai rolls? Jolly Spaghetti? Peach mango pie?
Warmer, or ‘colder’, we should say.
Yes, ice cream.
And that’s where everything began.
In 1978, Tan Caktiong, with more branches of ice cream shops, enlisted the help of marketing consultant Manuel Lumba for his business, according to an article by Entrepreneur Philippines.
“I was invited by Tony Tan Caktiong to go to what was then called Jolibe—an ice cream and soda fountain shop—located in Cubao, Quezon City,” Lumba told the magazine.
Lumba shared to Entrepreneur Philippines that as he observed, there were no leftovers from the shop’s hamburger products, contrary to what happened to the other food items they served, like the hamburgers.
That point signaled the turn from an ice cream business to the hamburger venture, as well as the name and persona of the jolly bee Jollibee, that we know today.
1978 was also the year when Jollibee was “incorporated as a 100% Filipino-owned company”, according to the company’s Milestones & History, launching Yumburger as “its first flagship product”.
Soon, more and more products were introduced and added to the menu, including the famous Chickenjoy.
Millionaire Acts noted on their article how the brand captured the taste that Filipinos love. It was also mentioned how Jollibee capitalized on distinct behaviors of their market towards food.
For example, as Tan Caktiong described, Filipinos smell their food first to make sure it tastes good. That paved the way for them to come up with the company’s “Langhap-Sarap” campaign.
Jollibee grew and grew, beyond the boundaries of the Philippines, and reached other countries.
Just recently, the company acquired the majority stake in a US burger chain.
The famous food corporation also owns food chains Red Ribbon, Chowking, and Greenwhich, among other brands.
Tan Caktiong credits the success of Jollibee to “sharing”, according to Millionaire Acts.
“We share our success with people; we give good compensation; we share any honor that comes our way”, the tycoon said.
“Actually, this idea of sharing didn’t 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”, he added.
Lumba also commended the Jollibee chairman as he told Entrepreneur Philippines, “Tony was only 23 years old or so when I met him. But already, he was equipped with the wisdom and patience and persevering attitude of a 70-year-old man”.
“To this day, he remains the same: humble, always listening, but ready to take a calculated risk”, the marketing consultant added.
Photo from Jollibee’s Facebook page