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亚洲快餐巨头快乐蜂的崛起之路

NICHOLAS GORDON
2024-07-06

2023年,快乐蜂62%的收入和97%的营业利润来自本土市场。

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图片来源:GERIC CRUZ FOR FORTUNE

每到星期天,香港最热闹的地方莫过于干诺道上的快乐蜂餐厅。这家菲律宾快餐店坐落于香港中区的摩天大楼之间,常常一座难求。如果赶上午餐时间,店内总是座无虚席。一有空位,顾客们就会蜂拥而至。

星期天是香港家庭佣工(其中大部分是菲律宾人)的休息日。他们会几十个人聚在一起,挤在这家店的地下室里和朋友聊天,还会在社交媒体上发发动态。屋内非常嘈杂,只有扯着嗓子喊才能让别人听到自己的声音。这个聚会场所也能让他们感受到一丝故乡的感觉。

“关键是炸鸡”,已经在这座城市工作十年之久的菲律宾家庭佣工玛丽说,“这里的炸鸡香脆多汁,十分可口”。快乐蜂的意面也是她的心头好,这是一种配有裹着该店招牌甜红酱的牛肉末、热狗片的特色意面。“好吃最重要”。

无论是在菲律宾国内,还是海外菲律宾侨民中,快乐蜂都已成为一种标志性产品。快乐蜂成立于1978年,通过汉堡包和炸鸡赢得了菲律宾食客的青睐,其代表产品“快乐炸鸡(Chickenjoy)”在所有订单中占比30%,此外还提供意面等更具当地风味的菜肴。

快乐蜂餐饮集团(Jollibee Foods Corp.,JFC)从马尼拉外奎松城一家餐厅起步,如今已发展成为一家全球企业,拥有超过6800家分店, 2023财年营业收入44亿美元,在首届《财富》东南亚500强排行榜上名列第86位。

2022年8月,快乐蜂餐厅进驻纽约时代广场,成为该公司在菲律宾本土市场以外420家分店中的一员。图片来源:RICHARD B. LEVINE—REUTERS

JFC通过在全球为其核心客户——菲律宾人提供服务不断发展壮大。其旗舰品牌快乐蜂在菲律宾拥有1240家餐厅,另有420家海外餐厅。JFC还通过收购东南亚、美国和中国的品牌连锁店进行扩张,此类门店提供的餐品包括披萨、粤式点心、菲律宾烤肉、台湾泡沫红茶等,可以说汇集了全球各种方便食品。

作为该公司首席执行官,陈曼中(Ernesto Tanmantiong)以将JFC打造成全球市值前五的餐饮公司为使命,四处收购正是其践行自己使命的手段之一。“这就是我们的目标所在”,他说,“我们说过,我们必须成为亚洲第一的食品公司。在我们即将实现这一目标时,我们又将目光投向了世界舞台”。

JFC还有很长的路要走。尽管快乐蜂备受市场追捧,但其母公司的收入规模仅为麦当劳的五分之一,专家们对其能否赶上麦当劳持怀疑态度。

但作为公司的资深员工,陈曼中坚信,快乐蜂既然能凭借自己的美食赢得菲律宾顾客的青睐,就同样能征服其他国家食客的味蕾,他们需要的只是一个尝试的机会。

如今,快乐蜂已经成为菲律宾必须打卡的“美食圣地”,各国来访政要都要到此一游。今年4月,新西兰总理克里斯托弗·卢克森在访问菲律宾时,第一天就到位于马尼拉商业区的快乐蜂吃了顿饭。菲律宾总统小费迪南德·马科斯说,此次访问让卢克森成了一名“荣誉菲律宾人”。一周后,马科斯在Facebook上发布了自己在快乐蜂的菜单:汉堡包、炸鸡和菲律宾米粉。

今年5月,在马尼拉的另一家快乐蜂,首席执行官陈曼中冒着酷暑(官方预警气温将超过45摄氏度)与一桶快乐炸鸡以及该连锁店的吉祥物——一只可爱、胖胖的大黄蜂合影留念。

作为菲律宾顶级巨头的首席执行官,陈曼中却一点没有大老板的架子,只是穿着一件很像员工制服的红色快乐蜂牌Polo衫。他一边咧嘴笑着,一边讲述快乐蜂40多年的历史。从他的神态可以看出,这些故事他已经讲了很多遍,而且他很乐于一次次重复这些故事。

自快乐蜂创立以来,陈曼中(即员工口中的“阿托先生”,菲律宾传统上习惯称呼所有顾客为“先生”或“女士”)就一直在这里工作。1975年,陈曼中的哥哥陈觉中(Tony Tan Caktiong)在大马尼拉的库巴奥开设了两家冰淇淋店,快乐蜂就是在这两家冰淇淋店的基础上发展而来。当时还是大学生的陈曼中会帮着做些零工。

陈曼中回忆说,当时“马尼拉到处都是冰淇淋店”,因此,为从竞争中脱颖而出,陈觉中在菜单上增加了汉堡包等热菜。新菜品备受顾客喜爱,陈觉中于是顺势而为,将小店更名为“快乐蜂”,即“快乐”和勤劳的“蜜蜂”的组合。陈曼中也成为了快乐蜂最小分店的经理。

陈曼中于2014年成为JFC首席执行官,但自1978年公司成立以来,他就一直在该公司工作。大学期间,他曾在快乐蜂最早的两家分店帮着干些零活。图片来源:GERIC CRUZ FOR FORTUNE

四年后,麦当劳进入菲律宾市场,快乐蜂迎来了攸关存亡的考验。陈曼中回忆说:“当时有一种说法,无论麦当劳进入哪个国家,都会横扫当地的一切竞争对手。”

管理层下令对两家公司进行SWOT分析。麦当劳在几乎所有方面都胜过快乐蜂一筹,只有一项除外,那就是口味。他说:“他们的产品口味较为寡淡,而亚洲人更喜欢味道浓郁的食物”。麦当劳花了十年时间才实现菜品的本地化,这让快乐蜂在竞争中占得了先机。

也许是无心插柳柳成荫,快乐蜂还从其吉祥物蜜蜂中汲取灵感,采用蜂群战术“围剿”竞争对手。陈曼中说:“当时如果麦当劳开了家大店,我们就会开六家小店,把它包围起来”。他指出,快乐蜂的店面更小、效率更高,每平方米销售额高于这个来自西方的竞争对手。

这一战略收效明显。如今,快乐蜂占据着菲律宾约50%的鸡肉汉堡市场,而麦当劳只占29%。

但只凭这些成绩,JFC还远远不能坐上汉堡包和炸鸡行业的头把交椅。陈曼中说:“在即将实现这一目标时,我们提高了自己的标准”。

新加坡国立大学(National University of Singapore)商学院教授安德鲁·德里奥斯解释说,菲律宾巨头企业利用本地收入“大肆收购”其他企业是一种常见现象。他说,像JFC这样在市场上占据主导地位的企业,要想获得“边际效益”,只能不断增加自己的市场份额,这就意味着它“只能通过收购来实现增长”。

这也正是JFC从1994年收购当地连锁店Greenwich Pizza开始所做的事情。随后几年,JFC又收购了一系列菲律宾本土品牌连锁店:2000年收购了中餐连锁店Chowking,2005年收购了蛋糕面包店Red Ribbon,2010年收购了菲律宾风味烧烤连锁店Mang Inasal。

随着快乐蜂的扩张,陈曼中的职位也不断攀升,并于2014年成为首席执行官。陈曼中说,陈觉中是JFC董事长,负责并购战略,并担任“CTO”一职,即“首席品味官”。

JFC的大肆收购巩固了其在本土市场的主导地位。总体而言,其旗下品牌占据了菲律宾快餐业超过一半的市场份额,更有许多子品牌能够占据某一菜系最多90%的市场份额。

快乐蜂还跟随菲律宾侨民进入了海外市场。该公司于1986年在台湾开设了首家海外分店,并于1998年在加利福尼亚州旧金山郊外的戴利城开设了首家美国分店。但陈曼中承认,该公司早期在新加坡、台湾、印尼和中东的扩张走了许多弯路。

2018年,JFC再次启动快乐蜂的全球化进程,在洛杉矶市中心、纽约时代广场和伦敦伯爵宫等黄金地段开设了分店。

快乐蜂在海外的客群仍以菲律宾人为主,但其良好的口碑和美味的炸鸡正在赢得其他客群的青睐。2022年,数字出版物《食客》(Eater)将该品牌评为“全美最佳快餐炸鸡”,快乐蜂的菲律宾分店也充满自豪地对这一荣誉进行了宣传。陈曼中称,快乐蜂在美国的顾客中有一半不是菲律宾人。而在越南等一些市场,顾客则完全是当地人。

今年2月,JFC制定了第二个重大目标,即到2028年将利润增加两倍,达到4.5亿美元。陈曼中计划通过“战略收购”和“积极扩张”来实现这一目标。他说:“我们想要打造卓越产品,这件事说起来容易,但实际做起来很难。如果市场上有合适的目标,为什么不直接收购呢?”

JFC的收购触角已经遍及全球,包括香港的米其林连锁点心店添好运(Tim Ho Wan)、加州连锁咖啡店The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf和丹佛的快餐汉堡店Smashburger。

尽管在海外动作频频,但JFC的重心仍在菲律宾。2023年,该公司62%的收入和97%的营业利润来自本土市场。

德里奥斯称,由于国际市场的要求十分苛刻,适应过程面临重重困难,JFC新设定的利润目标将“很难实现”。麦当劳等全球快餐巨头已深耕国际市场数十年,拥有丰富经验,所以能够迅速扩大规模。他说:“(肯德基所有者)百胜餐饮集团是每两小时新开一家特许经营店”。JFC还把发展重点放在竞争激烈的美国和中国。德里奥斯说,这两个红海市场“仍有发展空间”,不过JFC要拿出“优秀的产品……吸引菲律宾侨民以外的人群”,而且不能照搬本土市场的成功经验。

JFC同样深受通货膨胀困扰。菲律宾报告称,2023年该国的总体通货膨胀率为6%。受菲律宾比索疲软影响,快乐蜂的进口成本进一步增加。陈曼中说,这是他所见过的最严重的通货膨胀,但他声称JFC只将大约一半的上涨成本转嫁给了消费者。

但快乐蜂的忠实顾客就是他们最好的品牌大使,哪怕炸鸡的价格有所上涨也一样如此。菲律宾裔美国名厨戴尔·塔尔德说:“在你即将搭乘18个小时的飞机返回美国时,没有什么比马尼拉机场的快乐炸鸡更暖心了。那是我最难忘的记忆”。 

本文登载于《财富》杂志2024年6/7月刊,标题为《菲律宾炸鸡的崛起之路》(Filipino fried chicken takes flight)

译者:梁宇

审校:夏林

每到星期天,香港最热闹的地方莫过于干诺道上的快乐蜂餐厅。这家菲律宾快餐店坐落于香港中区的摩天大楼之间,常常一座难求。如果赶上午餐时间,店内总是座无虚席。一有空位,顾客们就会蜂拥而至。

星期天是香港家庭佣工(其中大部分是菲律宾人)的休息日。他们会几十个人聚在一起,挤在这家店的地下室里和朋友聊天,还会在社交媒体上发发动态。屋内非常嘈杂,只有扯着嗓子喊才能让别人听到自己的声音。这个聚会场所也能让他们感受到一丝故乡的感觉。

“关键是炸鸡”,已经在这座城市工作十年之久的菲律宾家庭佣工玛丽说,“这里的炸鸡香脆多汁,十分可口”。快乐蜂的意面也是她的心头好,这是一种配有裹着该店招牌甜红酱的牛肉末、热狗片的特色意面。“好吃最重要”。

无论是在菲律宾国内,还是海外菲律宾侨民中,快乐蜂都已成为一种标志性产品。快乐蜂成立于1978年,通过汉堡包和炸鸡赢得了菲律宾食客的青睐,其代表产品“快乐炸鸡(Chickenjoy)”在所有订单中占比30%,此外还提供意面等更具当地风味的菜肴。

快乐蜂餐饮集团(Jollibee Foods Corp.,JFC)从马尼拉外奎松城一家餐厅起步,如今已发展成为一家全球企业,拥有超过6800家分店, 2023财年营业收入44亿美元,在首届《财富》东南亚500强排行榜上名列第86位。

JFC通过在全球为其核心客户——菲律宾人提供服务不断发展壮大。其旗舰品牌快乐蜂在菲律宾拥有1240家餐厅,另有420家海外餐厅。JFC还通过收购东南亚、美国和中国的品牌连锁店进行扩张,此类门店提供的餐品包括披萨、粤式点心、菲律宾烤肉、台湾泡沫红茶等,可以说汇集了全球各种方便食品。

作为该公司首席执行官,陈曼中(Ernesto Tanmantiong)以将JFC打造成全球市值前五的餐饮公司为使命,四处收购正是其践行自己使命的手段之一。“这就是我们的目标所在”,他说,“我们说过,我们必须成为亚洲第一的食品公司。在我们即将实现这一目标时,我们又将目光投向了世界舞台”。

JFC还有很长的路要走。尽管快乐蜂备受市场追捧,但其母公司的收入规模仅为麦当劳的五分之一,专家们对其能否赶上麦当劳持怀疑态度。

但作为公司的资深员工,陈曼中坚信,快乐蜂既然能凭借自己的美食赢得菲律宾顾客的青睐,就同样能征服其他国家食客的味蕾,他们需要的只是一个尝试的机会。

如今,快乐蜂已经成为菲律宾必须打卡的“美食圣地”,各国来访政要都要到此一游。今年4月,新西兰总理克里斯托弗·卢克森在访问菲律宾时,第一天就到位于马尼拉商业区的快乐蜂吃了顿饭。菲律宾总统小费迪南德·马科斯说,此次访问让卢克森成了一名“荣誉菲律宾人”。一周后,马科斯在Facebook上发布了自己在快乐蜂的菜单:汉堡包、炸鸡和菲律宾米粉。

今年5月,在马尼拉的另一家快乐蜂,首席执行官陈曼中冒着酷暑(官方预警气温将超过45摄氏度)与一桶快乐炸鸡以及该连锁店的吉祥物——一只可爱、胖胖的大黄蜂合影留念。

作为菲律宾顶级巨头的首席执行官,陈曼中却一点没有大老板的架子,只是穿着一件很像员工制服的红色快乐蜂牌Polo衫。他一边咧嘴笑着,一边讲述快乐蜂40多年的历史。从他的神态可以看出,这些故事他已经讲了很多遍,而且他很乐于一次次重复这些故事。

自快乐蜂创立以来,陈曼中(即员工口中的“阿托先生”,菲律宾传统上习惯称呼所有顾客为“先生”或“女士”)就一直在这里工作。1975年,陈曼中的哥哥陈觉中(Tony Tan Caktiong)在大马尼拉的库巴奥开设了两家冰淇淋店,快乐蜂就是在这两家冰淇淋店的基础上发展而来。当时还是大学生的陈曼中会帮着做些零工。

陈曼中回忆说,当时“马尼拉到处都是冰淇淋店”,因此,为从竞争中脱颖而出,陈觉中在菜单上增加了汉堡包等热菜。新菜品备受顾客喜爱,陈觉中于是顺势而为,将小店更名为“快乐蜂”,即“快乐”和勤劳的“蜜蜂”的组合。陈曼中也成为了快乐蜂最小分店的经理。

四年后,麦当劳进入菲律宾市场,快乐蜂迎来了攸关存亡的考验。陈曼中回忆说:“当时有一种说法,无论麦当劳进入哪个国家,都会横扫当地的一切竞争对手。”

管理层下令对两家公司进行SWOT分析。麦当劳在几乎所有方面都胜过快乐蜂一筹,只有一项除外,那就是口味。他说:“他们的产品口味较为寡淡,而亚洲人更喜欢味道浓郁的食物”。麦当劳花了十年时间才实现菜品的本地化,这让快乐蜂在竞争中占得了先机。

也许是无心插柳柳成荫,快乐蜂还从其吉祥物蜜蜂中汲取灵感,采用蜂群战术“围剿”竞争对手。陈曼中说:“当时如果麦当劳开了家大店,我们就会开六家小店,把它包围起来”。他指出,快乐蜂的店面更小、效率更高,每平方米销售额高于这个来自西方的竞争对手。

这一战略收效明显。如今,快乐蜂占据着菲律宾约50%的鸡肉汉堡市场,而麦当劳只占29%。

但只凭这些成绩,JFC还远远不能坐上汉堡包和炸鸡行业的头把交椅。陈曼中说:“在即将实现这一目标时,我们提高了自己的标准”。

新加坡国立大学(National University of Singapore)商学院教授安德鲁·德里奥斯解释说,菲律宾巨头企业利用本地收入“大肆收购”其他企业是一种常见现象。他说,像JFC这样在市场上占据主导地位的企业,要想获得“边际效益”,只能不断增加自己的市场份额,这就意味着它“只能通过收购来实现增长”。

这也正是JFC从1994年收购当地连锁店Greenwich Pizza开始所做的事情。随后几年,JFC又收购了一系列菲律宾本土品牌连锁店:2000年收购了中餐连锁店Chowking,2005年收购了蛋糕面包店Red Ribbon,2010年收购了菲律宾风味烧烤连锁店Mang Inasal。

随着快乐蜂的扩张,陈曼中的职位也不断攀升,并于2014年成为首席执行官。陈曼中说,陈觉中是JFC董事长,负责并购战略,并担任“CTO”一职,即“首席品味官”。

JFC的大肆收购巩固了其在本土市场的主导地位。总体而言,其旗下品牌占据了菲律宾快餐业超过一半的市场份额,更有许多子品牌能够占据某一菜系最多90%的市场份额。

快乐蜂还跟随菲律宾侨民进入了海外市场。该公司于1986年在台湾开设了首家海外分店,并于1998年在加利福尼亚州旧金山郊外的戴利城开设了首家美国分店。但陈曼中承认,该公司早期在新加坡、台湾、印尼和中东的扩张走了许多弯路。

2018年,JFC再次启动快乐蜂的全球化进程,在洛杉矶市中心、纽约时代广场和伦敦伯爵宫等黄金地段开设了分店。

快乐蜂在海外的客群仍以菲律宾人为主,但其良好的口碑和美味的炸鸡正在赢得其他客群的青睐。2022年,数字出版物《食客》(Eater)将该品牌评为“全美最佳快餐炸鸡”,快乐蜂的菲律宾分店也充满自豪地对这一荣誉进行了宣传。陈曼中称,快乐蜂在美国的顾客中有一半不是菲律宾人。而在越南等一些市场,顾客则完全是当地人。

今年2月,JFC制定了第二个重大目标,即到2028年将利润增加两倍,达到4.5亿美元。陈曼中计划通过“战略收购”和“积极扩张”来实现这一目标。他说:“我们想要打造卓越产品,这件事说起来容易,但实际做起来很难。如果市场上有合适的目标,为什么不直接收购呢?”

JFC的收购触角已经遍及全球,包括香港的米其林连锁点心店添好运(Tim Ho Wan)、加州连锁咖啡店The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf和丹佛的快餐汉堡店Smashburger。

尽管在海外动作频频,但JFC的重心仍在菲律宾。2023年,该公司62%的收入和97%的营业利润来自本土市场。

德里奥斯称,由于国际市场的要求十分苛刻,适应过程面临重重困难,JFC新设定的利润目标将“很难实现”。麦当劳等全球快餐巨头已深耕国际市场数十年,拥有丰富经验,所以能够迅速扩大规模。他说:“(肯德基所有者)百胜餐饮集团是每两小时新开一家特许经营店”。JFC还把发展重点放在竞争激烈的美国和中国。德里奥斯说,这两个红海市场“仍有发展空间”,不过JFC要拿出“优秀的产品……吸引菲律宾侨民以外的人群”,而且不能照搬本土市场的成功经验。

JFC同样深受通货膨胀困扰。菲律宾报告称,2023年该国的总体通货膨胀率为6%。受菲律宾比索疲软影响,快乐蜂的进口成本进一步增加。陈曼中说,这是他所见过的最严重的通货膨胀,但他声称JFC只将大约一半的上涨成本转嫁给了消费者。

但快乐蜂的忠实顾客就是他们最好的品牌大使,哪怕炸鸡的价格有所上涨也一样如此。菲律宾裔美国名厨戴尔·塔尔德说:“在你即将搭乘18个小时的飞机返回美国时,没有什么比马尼拉机场的快乐炸鸡更暖心了。那是我最难忘的记忆”。 

本文登载于《财富》杂志2024年6/7月刊,标题为《菲律宾炸鸡的崛起之路》(Filipino fried chicken takes flight)

译者:梁宇

审校:夏林

There may be no busier place in Hong Kong on a Sunday than the Jollibee restaurant on Connaught Road. Nestled between skyscrapers in the city’s Central District, the Filipino fast-food outpost is packed. At lunchtime, there’s no place to sit. Customers are waiting to pounce on a free chair as soon as one opens up.

Sunday is a day off for the city’s domestic helpers—most of whom are Filipino. Dozens of them are crowded in the basement of this outlet to socialize with friends and post on social media. The room is so loud you have to shout to be heard. The gathering spot also offers them a taste of home.

“It’s about the chicken,” says Mary, a Filipino domestic helper who’s worked in the city for a decade. “It’s crunchy and juicy.” She also loves Jollibee’s spaghetti, a pasta dish featuring ground beef and hot dog slices slathered in a signature sweet red sauce. “Taste is all that matters.”

Jollibee is an icon in its home country and among the Filipino diaspora. Founded in 1978, Jollibee won over diners in the Philippines by serving hamburgers and fried chicken—its “Chickenjoy” makes up 30% of all orders—as well as dishes with more local flavor like its spaghetti.

What started as a single restaurant in Quezon City, outside Manila, is now a global operation called Jollibee Foods Corp. (JFC) that has over 6,800 locations and earned $4.4 billion in revenue in the 2023 fiscal year, landing it at No. 86 on Fortune’s inaugural Southeast Asia 500 list.

Jollibee opened its restaurant in New York City’s Times Square in August 2022; it’s one of 420 locations outside its home market of the Philippines.

JFC has grown by serving its core customers—Filipinos—the world over. Its flagship Jollibee brand has 1,240 restaurants in the Philippines and another 420 in other countries. JFC has also expanded by acquiring brands in Southeast Asia, the U.S., and China whose outlets serve pizza, Cantonese dim sum, Filipino barbecue, Taiwanese bubble tea—essentially a globally diversified portfolio of comfort foods.

The buying spree is part of CEO Ernesto Tanmantiong’s mission to make JFC one of the world’s top five restaurant companies by market cap. “That’s the North Star,” he says. “We said we had to be the No. 1 Asian food company in Asia. And then when we were again about to achieve that, we set our vision to the world arena.”

JFC has a long way to go. Despite Jollibee’s fervent following, the parent company is about a fifth the size of McDonald’s by revenue, and experts are skeptical that it will ever come close to catching up.

But Tanmantiong, a company lifer, is convinced that the thing that’s won over Filipino customers—the taste of Jollibee’s food—will appeal to non-Filipinos the world over; they just need a chance to try it.

Jollibee is such a staple in the Philippines that it has become an obligatory stop for visiting dignitaries. When New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Luxon went to the Philippines in April, he ate at a Jollibee in Manila’s business district on his first day. Philippines President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said that Luxon’s visit made him an “honorary Filipino.” Marcos posted his own Jollibee order to Facebook a week later: hamburgers, fried chicken, and “palabok,” a Filipino noodle dish.

At another Manila Jollibee in May, CEO Tanmantiong braves the heat—officials warned of a heat index over 113° F—for a photo shoot with a bucket of Chickenjoy and the chain’s mascot: a chubby, friendly bumblebee.

Tanmantiong doesn’t carry himself like the CEO of one of the Philippines’ largest companies. He arrives wearing a red Jollibee-branded polo shirt styled closely to the uniform worn by his employees. He grins as he talks about Jollibee’s 40-year-plus history. You can tell he’s told these tales many times—and he’s excited to tell them again.

Tanmantiong—or “Sir Ato” to his employees—has worked at Jollibee since its founding. (It’s Filipino tradition to refer to all customers as “sir” or “madam.”) Jollibee grew out of two ice-cream parlors Tanmantiong’s older brother, Tony Tan Caktiong, opened in 1975 in Cubao, Metro Manila. Tanmantiong, then a college student, helped out with odd jobs.

There were “ice-cream parlors starting all over Manila,” Tanmantiong recalls, so Tan Caktiong differentiated his menu by adding hot dishes like hamburgers. Customers preferred the new fare, so Tan Caktiong pivoted, settling on the name “Jollibee”—a combination of “jolly” and the industrious “bee.” Tanmantiong became manager of Jollibee’s smallest outlet.

Four years later, Jollibee faced an existential threat when McDonald’s entered the market. “We were told that in any country that McDonald’s entered, they swallowed their competitors,” Tanmantiong remembers.

Management ordered a SWOT analysis of both companies. McDonald’s beat Jollibee in all but one category: taste. “Their products are bland, while Asians prefer flavored food,” he says. It took McDonald’s a decade to localize its menu, giving Jollibee a meaningful head start.

Perhaps unintentionally, Jollibee also took inspiration from its bee mascot, swarming its competition. “If McDonald’s opened one big store, we surrounded them with six small stores,” Tanmantiong says. He notes that Jollibee’s smaller, more efficient stores surpassed its Western rival on sales per square meter.

The strategy worked. Today, Jollibee controls about 50% of the Philippines’ chicken-and-burger market, to McDonald’s 29%.

But it wasn’t enough for JFC to be No. 1 in hamburgers and fried chicken. “When we were about to achieve that, we raised the bar,” Tanmantiong said.

Andrew Delios, a professor at the National University of Singapore’s business school, explains that it’s common for a large Filipino company to funnel local earnings into an “acquisition spree.” A dominant company like JFC can get only “marginal gains” from increasing market share, he says, meaning it “must grow by acquisition.”

That’s exactly what JFC did starting in 1994 when it acquired Greenwich Pizza, a local chain. JFC bought other Filipino brands in the coming years: Chinese-food chain Chowking in 2000, cake bakery Red Ribbon in 2005, and Mang Inasal, serving Filipino-style barbecue, in 2010.

Tanmantiong climbed the ranks as Jollibee expanded, becoming CEO in 2014. Tan Caktiong is JFC’s chairman, looks after its M&A strategy, and serves as “CTO,” Tanmantiong says: “chief taste officer.”

JFC’s spending spree cemented its dominance in its home market. Combined, its brands represent over half of the Philippines’ quick-service restaurant sector, with individual brands often cornering up to 90% of the market for a given cuisine.

Jollibee also followed the Filipino diaspora to overseas markets. It opened its first international outlet in Taiwan in 1986 and its first U.S. outlet in Daly City, Calif.—a San Francisco suburb with a large Filipino American community—in 1998. But Tanmantiong admits to a lot of early missteps in Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia, and the Middle East.

In 2018, JFC renewed its push to take Jollibee global, opening branches in prime locations like downtown Los Angeles, New York City’s Times Square, and Earls Court in London.

Jollibee’s overseas clientele are still mostly Filipino, but word of mouth and good chicken are winning over others. In 2022, the digital publication Eater crowned the brand the “best fast-food fried chicken in America,” an honor Jollibee outlets in the Philippines proudly advertise. Tanmantiong claims that half of Jollibee’s U.S. customers are non-Filipino. In some markets, like Vietnam, its customers are entirely local.

JFC set a second big goal in March: to triple its profits to $450 million by 2028. Tanmantiong plans to achieve that feat with “strategic acquisition” and “aggressive expansion.” “It’s easy to say that we want to have superior products, but in reality it’s difficult to develop,” he says. “If it’s already available out there, why not just acquire it?”

JFC has already bought up brands around the world, including Hong Kong’s Michelin-rated dim sum chain Tim Ho Wan, California-based café chain The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, and Denver-based fast-casual burger joint Smashburger.

For all its overseas deals, JFC’s heart is still in the Philippines. It generated 62% of revenue and 97% of operating profits in its home market in 2023.

Delios calls JFC’s new profit target “an unlikely proposition,” citing the difficulty of adapting to demanding international markets. Global fast-food giants like McDonald’s have decades of experience, which lets them scale at speed. “[KFC owner] Yum Brands is opening a new franchise every two hours,” he says. JFC is also focusing its growth on the U.S. and mainland China, where competition is fierce. There’s “room to grow” in these crowded markets, Delios says, but JFC will need “a credible offering … beyond the Filipino diaspora,” and can’t just rely on what worked in its home market.

JFC is also struggling with inflation. The Philippines reported a headline inflation rate of 6% in 2023. A weak Philippine peso makes Jollibee’s imports more expensive. Tanmantiong says inflation is the worst he’s ever seen, but claims JFC has only passed about half of price hikes onto consumers.

But Jollibee’s existing base of die-hard fans are good brand ambassadors, even if the chicken’s getting a bit more expensive. “When you’re about to board an 18-hour flight back to the States, nothing hits like Chickenjoy at Manila airport,” says Dale Talde, a Filipino American celebrity chef. “That’s a core memory for me.” 

This article appears in the June/July 2024 Asia issue of Fortune with the headline, “Filipino fried chicken takes flight.”

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