‘Best fried chicken chain’ Jollibee opens flagship NYC location in Times Square

Photo from Facebook/@JollibeePhilippines

Expansion plans include locations in Grand Central, Brooklyn; First Philadelphia store to open next month

JOLLIBEE, the Filipino fast food brand aiming to become one of the world’s top-five restaurant chains, is taking America by storm with the opening of its new flagship restaurant in the heart of New York City’s Times Square.

“Just being in Times Square today is giving me goosebumps. To be here has been a long dream for us at Jollibee. It’s really exciting and I know that our kababayans are also very excited about it,” Maribeth Dela Cruz, president, Jollibee Group North America, Philippine Brands told the Asian Journal during the opening on Thursday, August 18.

World-famous for its chicken, burgers, and pies, the fast-growing restaurant brand’s Times Square location is its fourth in New York City, 60th in the United States, and 84th in North America.

Opening a flagship “at the crossroads of the world” — a global destination and retail hot spot — marks a critical milestone in Jollibee’s mission to become one of the world’s top-five restaurant chains.

In the next five to seven years, the company intends to grow to 500 locations in the region.

“We want to really accelerate the growth since we’ve been successful so far in establishing ourselves. And so the intent is to accelerate the growth because North America has been identified as a key pillar of growth for Jollibee. Of course, the bigger vision is to become one of the top five restaurant companies in the world. And the U.S. and Canada have been pegged as a growth market for international expansion,” Dela Cruz explained.

The Filipino pride, which has more than 1,300 restaurants worldwide, opened its second location in Queens last month, taking over the ground floor of a century-old, four-story building in Jamaica that was recently renovated. The new Times Square flagship joins Jollibee’s existing Manhattan location, which opened back in 2018 to tremendous fanfare.

The aggressive and rapid expansion means that there are already plans to open the fifth and sixth stores in NYC — one by Grand Central next year and another along Kings Highway in Brooklyn. They are also opening their first store in Philadelphia next month.

Dela Cruz recognized Filipinos in America for being an ally in supporting and uplifting the brand.

“It’s been a long journey for Jollibee. But you know, we’re very thankful to the Filipino Americans who have always believed in the brand, so we established ourselves first in that primary market,” she said. “We wanted to make sure that we are able to provide the taste of home to the Filipinos who have migrated here already.”

Through their journey in North America, they found out that even non-Filipinos enjoy the food.

“That means to say that delicious food has no boundaries. And so that has given us the encouragement to continue to expand our footprint going to places where non-Filipinos reside,” she remarked. “We’ve evolved as well, including our menu to make sure that we are also able to attract the non-Filipinos but still keeping the core of what Jollibee is.”

Part of the evolution that Dela Cruz mentioned are the new introductions to the menu, available exclusively for now at the Times Square location.

“The Chickenjoy is our best-seller, so to enhance the experience, we introduced new side dishes that are familiar to non-Filipinos,” Dela Cruz said. “We have the baked mac and cheese, which is creamy and cheesy, and then we also have put in the biscuits, with butter and honey to be enjoyed with our Chickenjoy.”

Jollibee is rounding-out its menu with several new offerings – starting with a brand-new burger line-up in honor of this enduring icon of American cuisine. It is also introducing a host of new salads and sides, giving its longtime fans something new to discover and giving those who haven’t yet tried Jollibee a lot more reasons to do so.

Centrally and strategically located at 1500 Broadway (between 43rd and 44th Streets) in the center of New York City’s most famous landmark, Jollibee is focused on serving not just its hordes of loyal fans but also those who haven’t tried the brand yet.

Just recently, Jollibee’s Chickenjoy bested 14 of its fiercest competitors like Popeye’s and KFC in four rounds of contests and was recently named “the best chain fried chicken in America” by Eater.com, an international food website by Vox Media.

“We’re very excited that more people are beginning to take notice of Jollibee. For us to make our mark here in this very highly competitive food service industry, especially chicken… it is giving us the motivation to push forward,” Dela Cruz said.

Dela Cruz has been with Jollibee for close to 30 years, starting as a shift supervisor, then as a shift manager in one of the restaurants back in the Philippines. Through the years, she has grown into various leadership positions in operations. “In 2005, I was tapped to come over here in the U.S. to help turn around our business. And, here we are, almost close to 20 years later, ready to accelerate the growth of Jollibee,” she shared.

In 2019, Dela Cruz assumed the presidency of North America. Then the pandemic struck in 2020, crippling the global economy and closing a lot of small restaurants.

“It entailed a lot of preparation in anticipation of what’s to come. Of course, it was unknown. Nobody knew about it, but I had to prepare the organization for the worst-case scenario,” she recalled.

Jollibee North America adjusted and made some pivots, including launching their delivery service. Still in the middle of the pandemic last year, they were able to open three stores in New Jersey — a pair in Jersey City and one in Edison.

“So even through the pandemic we continued to grow and we’ve been growing double-digit since, and that’s something because other restaurants are struggling but, we were able to get over that challenge,” Dela Cruz said. (Momar G. Visaya/AJPress)

Momar G. Visaya

Momar G. Visaya is the Executive Editor of the Asian Journal. You can reach him at momar.visaya@asianjournalinc.com.

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