May 20, 2020

Jollibee Foods: conquering the world stage

Digital Transformation
Jollibee Foods Corporation
5 min
Jollibee Foods: conquering the world stage

Fast-growing Filipino fast food company Jollibee Foods Corporation speaks to Business Chief about the company’s international expansion strategy

Filipino fast food company Jollibee Foods Corporation (JFC) has enjoyed a meteoric rise since its birth as an ice cream parlour in 1975. As of this year, Jollibee’s internationally recognised brand has a foothold in several markets around the world, including the US, Canada, the UK, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Brunei and Qatar. The firm operates 14 brands and 4,300 outlets across 20 countries, and its ambitions have yet to lose any momentum. Its aggressive expansion programme saw a year of milestones in 2018, with Jollibee opening its first European restaurant in Milan and later breaking ground in Macau, London, Toronto, and New York’s Manhattan. Jollibee also opened its hundredth Vietnamese store in early 2018, making it one of the country’s fastest-growing restaurant chains. JFC spoke with Business Chief to discuss the roots of this success, the sustained policies that continue to strengthen its brands, and its plans for the future.

“Our dream has been getting bigger – we wanted to become the biggest in the Philippines and once we achieved that, we wanted to become the largest in Asia,” JFC says. “When we became the largest Asian restaurant company in the world, we sought to dream bigger. Today, our dream is to become one of the top five restaurant companies in the world.” The firm’s expansion model is currently focused on three key markets: the Philippines, the US and China. Despite being the largest restaurant chain in the Philippines, Jollibee recognises huge potential for growth in its home country having penetrated only 10% of its municipalities. Meanwhile, the US and China offer the largest and most lucrative markets in the world. JFC’s efforts are consolidated under the company’s two-pronged expansion strategy: brand acquisition and brand expansion. Jollibee itself is a tried and true brand with a menu that has demonstrably accrued loyal fanbases in each of its operational territories. This brand strength is then augmented by market-specific acquisitions. “In China, we acquired the Yonghe King brand whose soy milk and youtiao are well loved by its patrons,” the company says. In the US, in tandem with plans to open more Jollibee outlets, the firm acquired Smashburger which competes as a JFC subsidiary in the emergent ‘better burger’ market. As it gears up to launch a new Mexican concept, JFC has teamed up with Rick Bayless, seven-time James Beard awardee, to develop the project. The firm cites value creation amongst its acquired brands as one of its most significant successes. “For example, in the Philippines, we’ve practically made all our acquired brands strong leaders in the segment,” JFC says.

In terms of Jollibee, JFC’s flagship brand, its success with international expansion has been compounded by the loyalty of Filipino customers residing overseas. Jollibee says on its website that “It is more than home for them”, referring to the familiarity Filipino customers enjoy in the firm’s international outlets. Word of mouth is a potent marketing tool in regions with a Filipino presence, particularly in the 34 US stores strategically located to capitalise on high Filipino populations, and Jollibee augments the good faith of its compatriots with targeted marketing campaigns and focus groups among local consumers. While its core products remain the same across its operational markets, Jollibee offers region-specific additions to its menu to better cater to local tastes, such as the Saigon Chili Chicken offering in Vietnam, and Chicken Burgers in the US. To ensure the values and quality the company strives for are upheld by franchisees, JFC conducts values integration programmes which ensure its outlets are driven by the same business practices that have spawned the company’s successes. “We also ensure that there is always a venue for open communication,” JFC adds.


The company does not forget the industriousness and determination of its workforce when detailing the factors that have bred the company’s continued success. “Where we are today is the product of the collective hard work of our employees and stakeholders,” JFC says, and the firm backs this faith in its staff with a dynamic talent management strategy. “This means we provide holistic learning and development opportunities, industry-competitive rewards and recognition, and we build an inclusive culture where people feel respected and valued,” JFC explains. The firm structures its roles to enable employees to find success, its staff undergo functional and leadership development programmes throughout their time with the company, and a fast track development programme is in place to develop and retain the top talents that join the firm.

Naturally, expansion is only as effective as a company’s ability to remain up to date with emergent technologies and trends in the industry. Digital transformation is at the forefront of JFC’s strategy for remaining current, and the company is investing in the expertise to identify and action the strongest method for enhancing its business practices with digital technologies. “In the future, we see half of our sales coming from online orders,” JFC says. While the firm’s online sales remain relatively small for the time being, it is confident in the growth and strong performance of its current offering and predicts huge potential in its upcoming ramp up of online deliveries. With regards to the biggest challenges facing the company today, the company says building capacity underlines much of the work it is doing to optimise its operations. With such rapid growth, to the tune of 465 store openings in 2017 alone, JFC recognises that its internal infrastructure must be reinforced to handle the boost in operational volume. “Our challenge is meeting the demands in terms of supply chain, logistics and building our stores, and there remains vast opportunities for growth,” it says. “We need to invest in our commissaries and add warehouses to keep supplies closer to the stores, and we are continuing to expand our store network aggressively so location is also key to meet the demand.”

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Jun 13, 2021

Seo JungJin: Who is EY’s World Entrepreneur of 2021?

Kate Birch
3 min
From just US$45,000 capital in 2003 to a world-leading biopharma giant with revenues of US$1.69bn today, Seo JungJin is crowned EY World Entrepreneur 2021

Seo JungJin, founder of biopharma firm Celltrion, which most recently developed an antibody treatment for COVID-19, has been named the EY World Entrepreneur of the Year 2021, becoming the first South Korean in the award’s 21-year history.

Regarded as one of the world’s most prestigious business awards program for entrepreneurs, the EY Entrepreneur of the Year celebrates visionary and innovative leaders from across 60 countries who are transforming the world and fostering growth.

JungJin, who is now honoroary chairman of Celltrion Group, was up against a worthy cast of entrepreneurial competitors, taking the crown from among 45 award winners across 38 countries and territories.

Speaking during the virtual event, JungJin described his own interpretation of entrepreneurship as something that brings together “a group of people toward a common vision, embracing challenges as opportunities and committing oneself to contribute to the greater good”.

Why was JungJin crowned King Entrepreneur?

A South Korean native and now 63 years of age, JungJin founded biopharmaceutical firm Celltrion in 2003. In the nearly two decades since its founding, Celltrion has lived up to its goal of advancing health and welfare for all by developing ground-breaking drugs to treat autoimmune disease, various forms of cancer and, most recently, COVID-19.

The company, which JungJin started with just US$45,000 and five of his colleagues, has since growth to more than 2,1000 employees with sales permits in more than 90 countries and revenues exceeding US$1.69bn.

According to the panel, JungJin’s story is a shining example of the power of an unstoppable entrepreneur to change the world with the pandel moved by both his incredible story and his purpose-driven leadership, innovative mindset and entrepreneurial spirit.

Described by the chair of the EY judging panel Rosaleen Blair as “representing everything an unstoppable should be” from taking on the world’s biggest health care challenges to consistently creating long-term value for his company, JungJin’s story is one of incredible tenacity and perseverance that the judging panel felt most represented the entrepreneurial spirit.

“He’s taken breathtaking risks, both personal and professional, to found Celltrion and grow it into one of the world’s leading biopharmaceutical companies,” says Stasia Mitchell, EY Global Entrepreneurship Leader. “His passion for creating affordable, life-saving health care and flair for tackling global problems has led to many treatments that have helped millions of people worldwide and was especially evident this past year through the creation of a COVID-19 antibody treatment.”

How did JungJin get there?

JungJin's entrepreneurial journey started at an early age when he worked as a taxi driver to get himself through Konkuk University in Seoul, South Korea. After studying industrial engineering, he rose through the ranks of Daewoo Motor Co. before losing his job amid the carmaker’s financial troubles following the 1997 Asian economic crisis.

Following this, JungJin started collaborating with colleagues to explore business opportunities in different industries, though none delivered lasting success. The turning point came after he attended a talk hosted by renowned scholars, which inspired him to focus on the biopharmaceutical sector.

And so he founded Celltrion with just US$45,000 of his savings. The launch of Remsima, credited with being the world's first antibody biosimilar, quickly moved Celltrion up the ranks of the country's fairly underdeveloped pharmaceutical sector. Celltrion followed this success with the launch of drugs for breast cancer and lymphoma that today are being used worldwide.

With ambitions to be the world’s first in different areas, Celltrion has pioneered numerous uncharted areas to great success over the past two decades, most recently responding to the global pandemic by successfully developing an antibody treatment for COVID-19 and working to ensure a timely supply of the safe and effective treatment.

“When I first started, my vision was to help patients gain access to safe, effective and affordable medicines and thereby enhance the quality of people’s lives,” explains JungJin. “The success of Celltrion has enabled me to expand on this while finding new ways to fuel my entrepreneurial drive.”


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