From Ice Cream Parlor to F&B Empire: Tony Tan Caktiong (Jolibee)

Not a lot of us know that the largest fast food chain in the Philippines started off as an ice cream parlor. Yes, Jollibee, the home of the smiley red and white bee mascot that every Filipino adores, was once a little shop in Cubao, Quezon City in 1978 that served ice cream and sandwiches.

Jollibee Foods Corporation


Founded by Tony Tan Caktiong, the former Magnolia Ice  Cream parlour pivoted to a fast-food model and was incorporated asJollibee Food Corporation in  January 1978. The fast-food chain scaled quickly to 7 branches in Metro Manila by the end of 1978.

Its rapid growth paved way for the opening of more branches including its first branch abroad, specifically in Taiwan, in the 80s.

During this time, the top-selling and arguably the best fried chicken in town was also introduced to the Filipino market – the crispylicious, juicylicious Chickenjoy. The term made such an impact on a lot of Filipinos that they would even call a regular fried chicken ‘Chickenjoy’. Along with that, Jollibee also served other dishes like sweet-style spaghetti, fries, and burgers while mostly getting influences from the Filipino, Chinese, American and European cuisine.

As the primary brand of the Jollibee Foods Corporation, Jollibee has been reported to have over 1000 outlets all over the world today including several branches in Asia, North America and Europe. [restrict]

While this could already be considered as a success, expansion remained at the table. Eventually, Jollibee Foods Corporation acquired other brands, some of them are its competitors, like Greenwich, Red Ribbon, Chowking, Mang Inasal, Burger King Philippines and recently, the American burger chain, Smashburger.

With an 85% acquisition of Smashburger to it’s portfolio in April 2017, Jolibee Foods Corporation net income rose by 15% to P$2.251 billion in the second quarter of this year (2018). Smashburger alone has over 300 branches in 37 states in thee United States and recorded sales of approximately US$200 million in 2017

Another favorable event in line and the diversification of Jolibee’s food portfolio is the 50-50 joint venture between  Jollibee Foods Corporation and Panda Restaurant Group.

The Panda Restaurant Group owns America’s largest and most popular Chinese restaurant chain, Panda Express.

The joint venture will give way to the development of 5 initial Panda Express branches in Metro Manila. The American-Chinese food chain alone has more than 2,100 locations globally.

DoubleDragon Properties

The amazing aspect about those with entrepreneurial vision is that they’re able to spot and capitalise on opportunities regardless of industry. And for Tony Tan Caktiong  his success isn’t only limited to the F&B industry.

His holdings company, Honeystar Holdings Corporation, partnered with Edgar Sia II to open  real estate company DoubleDragon Properties Corporation, formerly known as Injap Land Corporation, in 2012.

Their vision is to build a chain of branded community malls in commercial areas and provinces which has already started through the rise of CityMall in 2015. They also aim to build a million square meters of leasable space before 2020.

Entrepreneurial Spirit, Food and Family

When Tony Tan Caktiong and his brothers franchised Magnolia Ice Cream, they saw an excellent chance of building a new business out of it. Hence, the birth of Jollibee. It was such a phenomenon that the fast food outlet has become the go-to place for family gatherings in the Philippines.

Regardless of all the influences from other cuisines, one of the things that Filipinos love about it is that Jolibee remains loyal to the Filipino taste, especially for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) as it serves as a home away from home.

After 4 decades of serving people with ‘happiness’, there will surely be a lot more in store for this company. There’s never a perfect formula for success. However, we know what the essentials are – entrepreneurial spirit, humility, fair employee treatment, great service, marketing, exceptional branding and of course, capital.

As of 2018, Tony Tan Caktiong ranked 6th in Forbes’ Philippines’ 50 Richest. His net worth as at October 2018 stands at US$3.38billion.

Actionable Takeaway:

Building an empire can not be achieved overnight. It doesn’t matter if you start small as long as you have a vision and remain true to your brand, and that you are consistent in what you are trying to deliver.

Hard work and dedication are what is truly needed to achieve any sort of success.


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