Jollibee Foods Corporation
Tony Tan Cacktiong founder of Jollibee Foods Corporation tells a story about the success story of his company. There are many other stories about Tan and Jollibee that many people didn’t know about, and that would have remained unknown, If Tan hadn’t bested successful entrepreneurs from 30 other countries to win the “World entrepreneur of the year” Award in Montecarlo, Monaco, on May 28, 2004. Tan had always been low-key and media-shy. He was quiet happy to let his lieutenants do the talking for him to the press, actually – but his winning the award from the accounting firm Ernst & Young had forced him to agree to so many newspaper, magazine, and TV interviews later to tell them the story about the Jollibee story. After all it was he who won the award - not any of his lieutenants.
Still, if Tan had always been reticent about telling the Jollibee story beyond his immediate circle of friends and acquaintances, he had been equally reticent-if not more so-about revealing his personal history to the outside world. This reticence comes from humility. Unlike many corporate leaders who trace their lineage to wealthy Chinese clans, and who had studied in the more prestigious schools, Tan had comparably very humble beginnings, with his family exactly mirroring the stark circumstances in which the early Chinese immigrants found themselves in Manila. His father had been an immigrant cook in Binondo’s Seng Guan Buddhist Temple on Narra Street before he opened a small Chinese restaurant in Davao City, where Tan and his siblings helped clean tables and get water to customers.
It was his experience in his father’s restaurant that set Tan and his siblings on the road to entrepreneurship. In 1975, when he was set to graduate as a chemical engineer at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, Tan and his family pooled P350, 000 to open 2 Magnolia ice cream parlors: Cubao Ice Cream House near the Coronet Theater, in the middle-class shopping area of Quezon city, and Quiapo Ice Cream House under the Quezon Bridge in Quiapo, Manila. The siblings themselves manned the cash registers and served as waiters.
After two years, the siblings began serving chicken and hamburger sandwhiches, and in 1978, when they already had six ice cream parlors, they decided to convert their stores into hamburger restaurants and called the chain Jollibee. By that time McDonald’s entered the market in 1982, Tan was already entertaining dreams of growing the business outside the Philippines, and was neither interested in getting a McDonald’s franchise nor afraid of competing with the U.S. giant. Tan found McDonald’s very good at everything, but he thought it would not find favor with the customers because it served bland food (though McDonald’s has since started serving chicken, spaghetti and other great tasting value meals). McDonalds didn’t know the culture like the Tan’s did, and they used that knowledge to advantage to thrive and eventually become the Philippines’ top fast-food chain. Paulino cheng, a Jollibee franchisee in Greenhills, San Juan, says the fast food chain owes it success to its great tasting food and its advertising campaigns extolling the brand and its mascot as part of the Filipino pop culture.
Indeed, with affiliates Chowking, Greenwhich and Delifrance, the Jollibee group now counts over a thousand outlets here and abroad, 50, 000 employees and about P30 billion to 50 billion annual sales. Tan’s success in transforming Jollibee into a Filipino icon has led many entrepreneurs to dream about following in his footsteps, and analysts to heap praise on his entrepreneurial and people skills. Ernst & Young’s chairman, James S. Turley, has called his story “a truly inspirational one.” Howard Stevenson, professor of entrepreneurship at the Harvard Business School, describes Jollibee as a success story “based on solid foundations, not a meteor that will burn...