Rapidly Expanding Filipino Fast-Food Chain Jolibee Has a Cult Following

But one of the fastest growing fast food chains in the US is a company you might have never heard of.

A Jollibee location in Manila in 2000.

RA/HL/Reuters Photographer



Meet Jollibee, a global Filipino fast-food company, otherwise known as the “McDonald’s of the Philippines.”

Two pieces of bone-in fried chicken, one spicy and the other regular, both sitting on a plate in front of Jollibee branded packaging.

Two pieces of bone-in fried chicken, one spicy and the other regular.

Brittany Chang/Insider


Source: CNBC

And if you’ve never seen the brand in your neighborhood, that may change in the next few years.

The Jolly Spaghetti sitting on a paper container with a red sauce, meat, and cheese toppings.

The Jolly Spaghetti.

Brittany Chang/Insider


Jollibee Foods Corp — Jollibee’s parent company that also owns brands like Smashburger — recently reported 2021 profits roughly on par with its pre-pandemic 2019 profits.

The Benigno Aquino, the former Philippine president, smiling at a Jollibee location as workers pose and smile for the cameras in Singapore in 2014.

The Benigno Aquino, the former Philippine president, at a Jollibee location in Singapore in 2014.

Edgar Su/Reuters



Source: Jollibee Ford Corporation

“Beyond 2022, our outlook for business growth is even brighter,” Ernesto Tanmantiong, Jollibee Food Corp’s CEO, said in a press release, noting that he expects to see “very strong expansion” in North America, China, Southeast Asia, and Europe .

Bone-in chicken being dipped into a container of gravy.  There are Jollibee branded packages surrounding the fried chicken being dipped.

Bone-in chicken and gravy.

Brittany Chang/Insider


The $5.5 billion fast-food giant currently has 56 stores across the US in cities like New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Chicago….

A statue of the Jollibee mascot standing next to a sign that read s

The Jollibee in Manhattan.

Brittany Chang/Insider


Source: Jollibee, Yahoo Finance

By 2027, Jollibee wants to have 500 stores open in North America, starting with at least 20 new locations by the end of 2022, a spokesperson told Insider.

The Jolly Spaghetti.  Someone is holding chopsticks, pulling the spaghetti up.

The Jolly Spaghetti.

Brittany Chang/Insider


The announcement of new Jollibee openings has often foreshadowed massive local hype. In 2020, customers in Texas waited up to four hours just to grab a bite at a new location, Sarah Blaskovich reported for the Dallas Morning News.

People in line for Jollibees.

People in line at the first Jollibees to open in the United Kingdom in London in 2018.

Henry Nicholls/Reuters



Source: The Dallas Morning News

And it’s easy to see why fans would wait hours in line for Jollibee.

Jollibee's bone-in spicy fried chicken.  There are small red flags sticking out of the chicken showing

Jollibee’s bone-in fried chicken.

Brittany Chang/Insider


The Filipino chain’s menu shares some similarities with Chick-fil-a and KFC: Jollibee specializes in fried chicken, whether it be chicken sandwiches or fried chicken buckets.

A cross section of the Deluxe Fried Chicken Sandwich cut in half, showing lettuce, tomatoes, mayo, and a large slab of fried chicken.  There are Jollibee branded containers in the back.

The Deluxe Fried Chicken Sandwich.

Brittany Chang/Insider


It also offers the classic sides, like gravy, mashed potatoes, and french fries.

Jollibee branded containers with fried chicken sticking out of the top, larger container.

A bucket of Jollibee fried chicken.

Brittany Chang/Insider


But unlike the traditional US fast food joint, Jollibee also sells items like adobo rice, a sweet spaghetti, and palabok fiesta (a noodle dish with garlic, pork, shrimp, and eggs).

The Jolly Spaghetti sitting in a container.  The pasta is topped with red sauce, meat, and cheese.

The Jolly Spaghetti.

Brittany Chang/Insider


Source: Jollibee

I’ve only had Jollibee once on a whim several years ago, and I don’t remember what I ordered at the drive-thru.

Jollibee's bone-in fried chicken, regular and spicy.  The photo shows a close up of the crispy chicken.

Jollibee’s bone-in fried chicken, regular and spicy.

Brittany Chang/Insider


So I decided to visit the fast-food chain’s Manhattan location to see what all the hype is about.

The exterior of the Jollibee in Manhattan.  A sign reads

The Jollibee in Manhattan.

Brittany Chang/Insider


Jollibee currently operates one location in Manhattan just a short walk from tourist hotspots like Times Square.

Jollibee's bone-in spicy fried chicken.  There are small red flags sticking out of the chicken showing

Jollibee’s bone-in fried chicken.

Brittany Chang/Insider


It also recently announced plans to open an outpost in Grand Central Terminal in 2023 as part of its large North American expansion plan.

A spicy and regular fried chicken leg sitting on a plate.  The spicy chicken has a small red flag that reads

Jollibee’s bone-in fried chicken, regular and spicy.

Brittany Chang/Insider


Source: Eater

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