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Jollibee's Growth: The Recipe to Brand-Building Success

Brand Finance
Mr Ernesto Tanmantiong
23 April 2024

Jollibee has recorded remarkable growth this year, rising in brand value and brand strength to attain the title of second most valuable Filipino brand among those listed in our rankings. In this interview with Brand Finance, Ernesto Tanmantiong, President and CEO of Jollibee Foods Corporation, discusses the key milestones and strategies that drove the brand's growth since its humble beginnings.

Interview with Ernesto Tanmantiong

Ernesto Tanmantiong,
President and CEO of Jollibee Foods Corporation

Jollibee’s brand value has seen exceptional growth over the last two years. What would you consider as defining moments or milestones in building the Jollibee brand?

Having been a part of Jollibee since our beginnings in 1978, it is humbling to see how far we’ve come. Looking back, I see two defining moments for the Jollibee brand. 

First, when the biggest global fast food chain entered the Philippines in 1981. We were warned that they would wipe out local competition and our friends advised us to close the business. We were disadvantaged in almost every aspect, from our equipment to our processes, but we had a clear and important advantage: our food tasted better. So, instead of chickening out, we served Chickenjoy. Jokes aside, Jollibee in the Philippines today is bigger than the two global fast-food players that specialise in chicken dishes combined. Today, our Chickenjoy has been voted the best fried chicken not just in the Philippines but also in the United States, Hong Kong and Singapore. This is why we are very passionate about having delicious taste – it has brought us forward despite being disadvantaged in everything else.  Hence, many things might change, but we will never change our commitment to give our customers the joy that comes with delicious food. 

Second, when we started bringing Jollibee to international markets. We first aimed at catering to the Filipino diaspora, opening in Filipino-concentrated locales to bring them a taste of home. As we expanded, we discovered that delicious taste knew no boundaries and that we could appeal to people across cultures, ages and countries. Soon, we started catering to the mainstream non-Filipino market in each country and today, 80% of our customers in the United Kingdom are local non-Filipinos and over 60% and 70% in Hong Kong and Singapore respectively. In Brunei, the number reaches 95%, and in Vietnam, it’s almost 100%. We’re just getting started with our international journey, as we aim to make Jollibee a mainstream favorite worldwide.  Ultimately, these milestones would not have been possible without the determination of the men and women of Jollibee, past and present, who have built a brand that our customers love and can all be proud of. They are the driving force of our growth today and our growth in the future. 

What are some key trends you envisage as being the most important in the Philippine restaurant market, Jollibee’s home, and biggest market, as well as globally, over the next three years, and how can restaurant brands respond to these?

Our customers today have become even more discerning. They look for delicious food but at the same time, prioritise value and convenience. We’ve responded to this new need by introducing new menu and product innovations, such as Jollibee’s Chicken Sandwich, as well as offering new specialty drinks like coffee blends.  We also address inherent needs – for example, their need to eat together as a family or with friends; hence, our brands offer meal combinations for varying group sizes for more excellent value for our consumers. We also provide product options for our customers, such as our Mix and Match, to give them the choice to create their own product combinations. Amidst inflation, we continue to find efficiencies in our processes to keep prices competitive for our customers. 

Our customers today expect a seamless experience. Restaurants need to ensure a seamless experience for their customers across various channels, including digital platforms, and we need to leverage on technology and AI to make the customer experience easier, faster and more delightful. This means mapping out our customer journey to address both their current and anticipated needs. We continue to beef up our digital capability and technology investments, knowing that these will constantly evolve, and we are gearing up to be agile as we go through the journey. 

As consumers become more value-driven and presented with plenty of food options, they also look for ways for their loyalty to be rewarded. We are continuously strengthening our loyalty program to not only attract new customers but more so to award our existing customers who are in the best position to be our brand ambassadors. Our learning is always to stay attuned to the needs and wants of consumers, while not losing sight of the core of the business. For us, our focus is to serve great-tasting food, and even with all the pivots that have been made, it’s the dedication to exceptional taste that will keep our customers coming back. 

With Jollibee looking to expand further globally, how has the brand fostered strategic alliances, and what role have these partnerships played towards its expansion objectives?

We often say that the secret to our success is the strong team we’ve fostered throughout our 46 years in the business. This team includes not just our employees but also our many franchisees, business partners and suppliers who have helped build our brand’s success. 

Our relationships with franchisees and business partners become even more critical as we accelerate our global growth through franchising. Investing in our current franchisees’ success helps us attract new franchisees, while deepening collaboration with top-tier partners and growing our supplier network also supports our growth ahead. 

How do you see the role of the Jollibee brand in attracting and retaining top-tier talent? 

Many have said that the culture the Jollibee Group has is unique and special. Our name encapsulates the essence of this culture that attracts and keeps talents with the company. Our name Jollibee comes from two words: ‘bee’ to represent our people working hard to produce sweet things in life and working hard through teamwork as a whole hive as well as ‘jolly’. We added ‘jolly’ because, as my brother and our founder Dr. Tony Tan Caktiong says, “if you’re working hard but are not happy, then it’s not worth it.”

More than being a place to work at, we aim to build an organisation where talents find and choose joy. Our joyful culture and employer brand have helped us attract strong talents from around the world and have also allowed us to be recognised with accolades such as the Forbes’ Best Employers, Gallup Exceptional Workplace Award and TIME Magazine’s World’s Best Companies. 

Social responsibility and sustainable practices are increasingly important to stakeholders. How has Jollibee integrated sustainability initiatives into its brand strategy? 

Like many Philippine-based companies, we continue to grow in our sustainability journey. As part of this journey, we launched our sustainability agenda, Joy for Tomorrow, where we’ve defined our three pillars: Food, People and Planet.  

Through our Jollibee brand, we’ve pioneered and instituted several sustainability initiatives. One of these pillar initiatives is our Food, Service, Cleanliness (FSC) Program and System. Every year, we conduct thousands of food, service and cleanliness audits in our restaurants globally. Our efforts to quality were recognised with the highest rating for exceptional Food Safety & Quality Practices at the 9th International Best Practice Competition. 

Jollibee also has a policy not to advertise directly to children 13 years of age and below as part of our commitment to Responsible Marketing.

Finally, as we incorporate inclusive business practices, our Farmer Entrepreneurship Program has empowered over a thousand smallholder farmers to supply ingredients such as tomatoes and onions directly to Jollibee, increasing their income and improving their livelihood. These ingredients form part of products such as our Yumburger and Jolly Spaghetti, both of which are Jollibee’s bestsellers and are enjoyed by millions of our customers. 

We acknowledge that there’s a long road ahead, but we remain committed to having sustainability as one of Jollibee’s backbones. 

About the Authors

Brand Finance is the world’s leading independent brand valuation and strategy consultancy. Headquartered in the City of London, we are present in over 20 countries.

For almost 30 years we have helped companies and organisations of all types to connect their brands to the bottom line.

Mr Ernesto Tanmantiong
President and CEO
Jollibee Foods Corporation

Mr Ernesto Tanmantiong is the President and CEO of Jollibee Foods Corporation.