Jollibee: Tony Tan Caktiong in Pioneering The Success That Came with Jollibee

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It has become very typical to be introduced to a full experience of how to live as a Filipino by hearing the word “Jollibee” at least once. Oftentimes, it is introduced with the intention of having the other person try the food the famous fast food chain offers. Their menu embodies the local taste mixed with the Filipino versions of different food which fits right up into the palate of the Filipino people.

Starting its first few branches within the Philippines, Jollibee grew into a highly successful business that eventually got its brand known in multiple cities locally and eventually expanded its business overseas. However, as successful as this fast food chain is, there will always be that person that started, thrived for, and continued developing the business that earned its popularity; its founder, Tony Tan Caktiong.

Jollibee and Tony Tan Caktiong
Photo in the background: Jollibee Branch in Bonifacio Global City (Courtesy of Jollibee Foods Corporation)

The Life of the Founder

Tony Tan Caktiong was born to parents that are Chinese immigrants who decided to move and stay in the Philippines in hopes of having a much better living. Tony was the third out of seven children in their household and studied BS Chemical Engineering program at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila. However, being born into a considerably big family, getting Tony back to school was not easy for the Caktiong family. They only got to acquire this opportunity by culminating in his father’s significantly remarkable skill in cooking which got them the chance to establish a restaurant in Davao which became their first source of income.

The family also worked hard to maintain the progression of the business, so that just gives insight into how much they desire to have a better life. They are more than willing to work on every level for it; be it through education or business, although the latter was the one that provided the Caktiong family a sight to their booming success.

With the stability of income from the family’s established restaurant, Caktiong was able to finish his degree and finally take his first step into entrepreneurship after getting his inspiration from visiting an ice cream plant in the Philippines. With hopes for the bountiful return of their family savings, in 1975, Caktiong franchised Magnolia Dairy Ice Cream with the amount reaching PHP 350,000 in order to open two ice cream parlors; Cubao Ice Cream House and Quiapo Ice Cream House. Needless to say, the investment later on gained the entrepreneur such a huge and long-withstanding success.

the first two franchises Tan bought before founding Jollibee
Photo Credits: Courtesy of Jollibee via South China Morning Post

Shown above is the Cubao Ice Cream House, one of the first two franchises that Caktiong bought when starting his own entrepreneurship business. As the ice cream parlors began to gain a lot of supportive customers, the demands and requests began to come in as well which prompted Caktiong to begin adding meals and sandwiches instead of just the sweet, frozen treat. This new addition to the menu gained a lot of positive impressions among the Filipino community which birthed the start of the well-known fast food chain.

“Bida ang saya!”

With continuous success ever since Caktiong improved his business’ menu, he decided that rebranding and finally putting on a name that would best represent the company and the people they cater to would be his next step. This is where they came up with the brand “Jollibee” and the logo of a cute, animated bee. The name might sound very simple, but it does have a deeper correlation to the company and the customers.

The prefix, which is from the word “jolly,” pertains to the emotion that means positivity and happiness, and the logo of the bee signifies the connection to honey, which represents sweetness either in life or in the food that the business caters to. They also work hard into trademarking multiple things such as “Bee Happy,” “Yumburger,” “Chickenjoy,” and the bee logo within the Philippines and even in other countries.

In 1978, upon establishing seven outlets under the new name, Caktiong refused to franchise Jollibee at the moment, unlike what established fast food outlets such as Wendy’s and McDonald’s back then did. Tony Tan Caktiong and his brother spent some time in the US a year later to study and scrutinize what is necessary in improving and continuing their newly established fast food chain, incorporating it into Jollibee. It also helped that there are already similar lines of business ahead of them Caktiong and his brother got to learn what they should be careful of and completely avoid doing so they would not make the same mistakes.

The first Jollibee store opened in Manila in 1978.
Photo Credits: Courtesy of Jollibee via Stockbytes PH

The Company’s Grandeur

Despite the knowledge that there are much bigger fast food chains that have longer longevity in the industry, Jollibee Foods Corporation managed to build its way to success by framing its goals to focus on the quality of its products and services. It also added that they do not shy away from maintaining corporate social responsibility in increasing employment through the business.

Their connection with the Filipinos through their marketing and promotions has also been proven through the consistent association of their products to the love and happiness a child would think of and a family could bring.

Jollibee Foods Corporation–-or Jollibee Group also operates in 34 countries with 5,800 branches scattered all over the Philippines and in other countries such as Bahrain, Brunei, Canada, Costa Rica, Egypt, El Salvador, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Oman, Panama, the People’s Republic of China (including Hong Kong and Macau),  Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, and Vietnam.

Becoming the leading fast food chain in the Philippines and gaining a lot of recognition and praise even from non-Filipinos, Jollibee Foods Corporation currently has 16 corporate brands. Some of these brands are already known nationwide, such as Burger King Philippines, Chowking, Greenwich, Mang Inasal, Panda Express Philippines, Red Ribbon, and The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf.

Jollibee Foods Corporation has earned a lot of awards throughout the years yet their recent ones are the Gallup Exceptional Workplace Award (GEWA) and Forbes’ List of The World’s Best Employers. The former [GEWA] is considered to be the highest award for organizations to receive and is limited only to 38 recipients worldwide.

Jollibee Foods Corporation is the first Philippine-based company to ever receive this award which proves its exemplary environment that shows in the workplace and its services. The latter award [Forbes’] is granted among employers that are well-received and recommended by their employees. Jollibee Foods Corporation is auspiciously included among the only three Philippine-based companies that received such an award. It is also important to note that for ten years, Jollibee holds the title of Philippines’ most admired company given by the Asian Wall Street journal.

Tony Tan Caktiong has also earned himself the World Entrepreneur of the Year in EY Entrepreneur of the Year (formerly Ernest and Young Entrepreneur of the Year) in 2004.  He also earned himself a place in the Forbes’ Philippines’ 50 Richest, with him being in 11th place as of the year 2021.

Success, in the development of Tony Tan Caktiong’s entrepreneur life and Jollibee Foods Corporation, is not easy and it would never be linear. It would take more than just hard work for anyone to achieve it, but needless to say, it was never impossible to embark on such a journey and reach one’s goals.

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