So I wondered… why are there McDonalds Tagalog / English ads in Philippine newspapers, here in the U.S.? After all, Filipinos living here in America speak English (as do Filipinos living in the Philippines!)
I think I know why now—- and it’s about Jollibee.
Photo from www.Jollibeeusa.com
I recently read about Jollibee’s plans to set up 280 new stores this year, with 90 in China, as part of a major expansion.
Philippine-based Jollibee Food Corporation (JFC) started in Manila, soon after McDonalds made plans to enter the Philippine market.
At that time, the company founders—who had just started a Magnolia ice cream parlor franchise that also served sandwiches — figured that catering to the taste buds of Filipinos, and making spicier hamburgers would be the way to have an advantage over McDonalds.
Jollibee is now the Philippines’ largest chain restaurant, with over 600 locations (now 800 locations, as I update this post in March, 2014). There are currently 26 locations in the U.S (mostly in California), and outlets in Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Brunei and Hong Kong. It is one of Southeast Asia’s most successful companies.
Should McDonalds —with their 32,000+ locations worldwide— be concerned? Well, perhaps enough so…at least for their Filipino-American customers, that they are doing these language specific ad campaigns in California..
The US State Department estimates the number of Filipinos in the U.S. at 4 million, or about 1.5% of the population (as a comparison, the combined population of the states Wyoming, Vermont, Alaska, Montana, Hawaii and Rhode Island is a little over 4 million).
Filipino-Americans are among the most educated, and have the highest incomes compared to other Asian-American groups (and so have money to spend on fast food restaurants, among other things).
Jollibee restaurants are opening up in areas of the US with a large and established population of Filipinos. Though this data is from 2000, areas highlighted with a high number of Filipino-Americans remain the same. New Jollibee restaurants are planned for New Jersey and Virginia.
But the U.S. Filipino market is just a small part of Jollibee’s expansion plans, when you look at the 90 stores they plan for China.
Jollibee has already established a presence in China by taking over several Chinese restaurant chains, including a fast food noodle chain last year. And with China now an economic power, it may be easier to grow and catch up with McDonalds in China than here in the U.S.