Tony Tan Story

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Tony Tan Caktiong and Jollibee Success Story
Friday, January 30th, 2009 at 9:08 am  
Tony Tan Caktiong’s Jollibee has been one of the most admired, most copied, most innovative and most professionally-run company here in the Philippines. It has been the number one fastfood chain overtaking giants such as Mc Donalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken or KFC. How did a local jolly red bee knocked down a multinational red-haired clown named Ronald? Let’s see another inspiring story of the founder of one of my ideal businesses. With its success, a Jollibee franchise has now a tag price of P25+ Million (US$ 500,000+). Wow!

Tony Tan Caktiong’s Life and his Jollibee company is another rags to riches story of an entrepreneur that truly inspires everyone. Tony was the third of seven siblings born to poor parents who migrated from the Fujian province in China to look for a better life here in the Philippines. His father began as a chef in a Chinese Temple. Not later on his father was invited to open a restaurant business in Davao so the whole family moved south. All together, they helped one another in managing the restaurant business which in turn became profitable. This allowed young Tony to return back to Manila and pursue his course Chemical Engineering at the University of Santo Tomas (UST). In 1975, Tony and his colleagues went on a visit to a Magnolia Ice Cream plant located in Quezon City and learned that it was offering franchise when he saw a poster for it. By the month of May, with his family savings, he took P350,000 to grab the franchise opportunity and opened two Magnolia ice cream parlors named Cubao Ice Cream House located near the Coronet Theater, and Quiapo Ice Cream House located beside the bridge – the one going to ilalim – near a Mercury Drug outlet. They all worked hands-on but as the business propels, they noticed they could not do it all so they started to set up an organization hired store managers, and trained people. Tony started with just two ice cream. Then after two years, he offered chicken and hamburger sandwiches, because customers were telling them they didn’t want to be eating ice cream all the time. They prepared the food in the back kitchen, and soon noticed that people were lining up more for hamburgers than for ice cream. Then in 1978, when they already had six ice cream parlors, they asked themselves: “Why don’t we change into a hamburger house?” That was also the time they decided to incorporate and realized thet they needed a brand name. They were looking for a symbol that would represent the group, and because Tony was very impressed with Disneyland characters, they decided on a bee. The bee is a busy creature that produces honey – one of life’s sweetest things. They thought it would be a very good symbol to represent everybody. They decided they would all be very busy and happy at the same time, because if they were busy but not happy, it wouldn’t be worth it. That’s why they put the word jolly and just changed the “y” into “i” to form a brand name - JOLLIBEE. “It wasn’t long before we heard that the multinationals were coming in – including McDonald’s. Friends started asking us if we were going to get a McDonald’s franchise but I remember saying, if you franchise, you can’t grow outside the Philippines”, says Tony. McDonald’s came in 1982, but they didn’t feel threatened because they were a little naïve and Jollibee was doing very well. They found McDonald’s to be very good at everything, but it didn’t know the local culture. They knew the Filipino’s taste buds and what he liked in food, so they offered him flavorful and good-tasting products. He likes pasta, so they started offering spaghetti. He likes chicken, so they came up with good fried chicken by mixing different flavors. They also knew something important all along: Filipino taste is sweet. This is very Filipino – very Asian. He said: “If we eat anything sweet; we don’t really...
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