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Jollibee charts big expansion in 2021: QA with Maribel Dela Cruz, president

Jollibee Group North America, Philippine Brands, president provides details on expansion, differentiation

QSR chicken chain Jollibee plans to continue major expansion in 2021, coming off tremendous growth this year despite the pandemic. The Philippines-based chain added 16 North American stores in 2020. In the United States, Jollibee opened new stores in California and Texas. In Canada, a new Toronto store opened on historic Yonge Street. For more details on the expansion, we turned to Maribeth Dela Cruz, president of Jollibee Group North America, Philippine Brands.

Restaurant C-Suite: First, tell us about the characteristics of your Chickenjoy and Jollibee’s menu that have become popular in the US.

Maribeth Dela Cruz: Jollibee’s menu is headlined by our world-famous Chickenjoy, fried chicken that has been delicately hand-breaded to be crispy on the outside with a secret marinade that makes it juicy on the inside.

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Other popular menu items include our Jolly Spaghetti which many first-time Jollibee customers are surprised to see on a fast-food menu. This dish is beloved by adults and kids alike and features spaghetti topped with our signature sweet-style sauce loaded with chunky slices of savory ham and hotdog and a generous sprinkle of cheese. Finally, no Jollibee meal would be complete without our Peach Mango Pie which features a delicious filling made with real Philippine mangoes surrounded by a light crispy crust.

Our customers keep coming back not only for our unique menu, which is best described as a joyous mashup of Western comfort food with a delicious Asian twist, but also for our warm and friendly service. The Jollibee rand has always been very welcoming and hospitable. We have continued this level of service in the U.S. and it has been very well-received by our customers here.

We progress in our mission to expand to 300 Jollibee stores by 2024, our areas of focus within the U.S. over the next year
Philippines-based Jollibee seeks big expansion in the US, bringing its Chickenjoy to new fans. Photo by Jollibee.

What geographic areas outside of California and Texas are targeted for development in 2021?

As we progress in our mission to expand to 300 stores by 2024, our areas of focus within the U.S. over the next year include states like Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Hawaii; and we’ll be opening our first store in Maryland.

Tell us about your use of a ghost kitchen in Chicago, and the use of these to expand. Are they included in the 28 stores planned for next year?

Cloud kitchens are an innovative store model that allows Jollibee to meet the rising demand for delivery among consumers. We are planning to first optimize our Chicago Cloud Kitchen before expanding the concept to other cities across the U.S.; but there will definitely be cloud kitchens among our 300 stores by 2024 in North America.

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What are the plans for East Coast expansion?

In 2021 Jollibee will be further expanding its network across New Jersey and New York, with our first store in Times Square and as I mentioned, opening our first store in Maryland.

Please tell us about two or three things you have learned about adapting Jollibee’s practices in light of the pandemic.

I’m so proud of each member of the Jollibee family for swiftly adapting to this ever-changing environment that we’ve been navigating.

This article originally appeared in the Trends issue of Restaurant C-Suite Magazine. Check out the current issue here.

Photo credit: Culver’s Franchising System (featured preview image)

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