Philippine 'Chicken King' Jollibee eyes at least 15 more Singapore outlets, Indonesia market

Customers eat at a Jolibee fastfood outlet in Quezon City, Manila. PHOTO: REUTERS

MANILA - Philippine fast-food giant Jollibee is opening at least 15 more outlets in Singapore in the next five years, and breaking into Indonesia's huge market in 2019.

"We are happy with our Singapore business. Our continuing investment in Singapore is testament to the belief in the brand," said Mr Dennis Flores, Jollibee President and Head of International Business (Europe, Middle East, Asia and Australia).

He told The Straits Times on Wednesday (Nov 22) that the Manila-based company will open its sixth store in Singapore in Jurong East in April next year (2018).

Jollibee already has five stores in Singapore: two at Lucky Plaza, and one each in Paya Lebar, Changi, and Novena.

"We've gone to another level. Half our customers now are Singaporeans, no longer Filipinos."

He said while Jollibee's initial push came from Singapore's large population of Filipinos, growth has lately been a matter of location.

Jollibee opened its first store in March 2013 on the sixth floor of Lucky Plaza. While Filipinos flocked to it, resulting in queues that spilled outside the store, few Singaporeans went there.

"Only the brave souls went there," said Mr Flores.

A second outlet at the mall's basement drew more local diners.

Since then, Jollibee has picked locations that are more accessible to Singaporeans.

"Currently, our numbers are doing great. More importantly, it's the patronage of Singaporeans that's really giving us a lot of encouragement… Our ability to connect with the Singaporean palate gives us a lot of excitement and encouragement that we can fulfil our goal to open 15 more stores."

Mr Flores said Jollibee is also looking into entering the 260-million-strong Indonesian market in 2019.

"It's a market we can't ignore. It's a chicken market. If you're familiar with Indonesia, everyone there loves chicken. The big players are all 'chicken players'. We believe with our superior products, our chances are very good," he said.

Jollibee is hoping to open 150 stores in Indonesia in 10 years.

The fast-food giant, which had about 14 billion pesos (S$373 million) in cash and equivalents as of June 30, operates more than 3,500 stores globally, according to its second-quarter earnings statement.

It controls more than half of the Philippines' US$4 billion (S$5.4 billion) market with its signature fried chicken.

Jollibee generated 21 per cent of its 113.9 billion pesos in revenue overseas last year, according to Bloomberg data. When Smashburger - the US franchise in which Jollibee owns 40 per cent - is included, that segment increases to 30 per cent.

Jollibee CEO Ernesto Tanmantiong told Bloomberg earlier that Jollibee is looking for acquisitions to accelerate its ambitious expansion plans in the United States and China.

The company is reportedly eyeing other fast-food chains as well as fast-casual restaurants like Smashburger.

Jollibee recently shut down its hot pot dining business under the 12 Sabu brand in mainland China to focus on its bigger brands such as noodle house chain Yonghe King and Dunkin' Donuts.

12 Hotpot (Shanghai) Food and Beverage Management operated 16 stores under the 12 Sabu brand. The stores were mostly in the Shanghai area.

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