For an international brand building in the U.S., the most important factor is maintaining authenticity, Dela Cruz says. With that in mind, Jollibee’s focus is to offer a unique and differentiated product to separate itself from American players.
Jollibee is recognized for its fried chicken, in addition to a Yumburger crafted with a signature dressing, and spaghetti topped with Jollibee’s signature sweet-style sauce and chunky slices of ham, ground meat, and hotdog. The menu also showcases the brand’s Filipino roots, like the Palabok Fiesta, which Jollibee describes as a “traditional Filipino noodle dish covered in garlic sauce, crushed pork rind, shrimp, and egg."
In addition to authenticity, Dela Cruz highlights Jollibee’s ability to “serve joy in every way that we can to consumers." The company calls it FSC, or food, service, and cleanliness standards.
“We really put a lot of emphasis on great tasting food as well as just really a joyful type of service,” Dela Cruz says. “Filipinos are known for their hospitality. And so we'd like to bring that kind of differentiated service in the North American market. And so far customers have been recognizing there’s a warm hospitable environment in all the restaurants. Those are the things we continue to do. We want to make sure that Jollibee comes in an authentic way here in the North American market. We should be able to adapt as well by introducing products that are very familiar with the North American consumers, but ensuring we put in our own unique twist to it to have differentiation.”
Jollibee has fared better than most throughout the pandemic. During the first two months of 2020, the chain saw sales grow by double digits. When COVID hit in March, there was a noticeable impact for the first few weeks, but Jollibee quickly regained its footing, mostly because 50 percent of stores feature a drive-thru. Prior to the pandemic, the plan was to launch delivery in the latter half of 2020, but the crisis forced Jollibee’s hand, so it rolled out a partnership with DoorDash in April 2020.
The chain ended 2020 with sales increasing 15 percent compared to 2019. So far in 2021, sales are growing 37 percent against last year. Because only half of stores have drive-thru, dine-in mixed roughly 40 percent prior to COVID while drive-thru mixed around 20 percent. But with dining rooms shutting down for months, the drive-thru channel shot up to 70 to 80 percent. Dela Cruz says customers have asked Jollibee to reopen indoor dining, and stores have complied, but the executive acknowledges that drive-thru will remain a priority going forward.