16 February 2017, Al Falah, Abu Dhabi. Thousands of Filipinos living and working in the country packed the new Jollibee store in Al Falah, Abu Dhabi, on February 8 when the Company formally opened the store’s doors for business. With the first customer waiting patiently in line from 3:00 a.m., hundreds more awaited the 8:00 a.m. opening, journeying from as far as Al Shamkha and Al Shahama and other parts of Abu Dhabi, to be there for the celebration and have a taste of their favorite Chickenjoy.
“Hinahanap-hanap ko ang Jollibee kasi sariling atin,” said Patricia Mae Ramos who trooped to the store at 3:00am to make sure that she and her family were first in line. “Jollibee is like family. Nakaka-miss ang Pilipinas pero at home ka kay Jollibee.”
“Masayang masaya kami na may malapit nang Jollibee dito. When you say Jollibee kasi, it’s part of the Filipino culture already. Nagiging proud to be Pinoy ka,” said Jane Diaz-Marbella, a Cinema Manager who has lived in Abu Dhabi for 16 years. “Kinukwento ko nga sa mga anak ko na nung mga bata palang kami, lagi kaming dinadala ng parents namin sa Jollibee after school or church. Yun din yung ipapasa ko sa kanila ngayon lalo na meron nang Jollibee malapit samin.”
“Napapasaya ako ng Jollibee at natatanggal niya yung pagka-miss ko sa Pilipinas,” said Ma. Salvacion Araneta-Ustare, 2-year Abu Dhabi resident. “Maganda na nandito ang Jollibee lalo para sa mga OFWs, para nawawala yung pagka-homesick nila sa Pilipinas. Pag nakakakain ka kasi ng Filipino food katulad ng Jollibee, parang kasama mo na rin yung pamilya mo sa Pilipinas.”
With some 86,000 likes, posts and shares on the store’s Facebook page, over 100,000 views, and a 171% increase in fan base, the social media activity over February 7 and 8 reflect the buzz that greeted the opening of Jollibee’s Al Falah store. In fact, the opening countdown and festivities video was shared 73,000 times within a 24-hour period as posted videos reached some 1.2 million customers. Jollibee received hundreds more well-wishes through private messages.
Offline, grownups and kids alike flocked to Jollibee’s mascot for a hug and a souvenir photo. Many of these “family photos” were shared on personal social media pages and blogs.
“We were overwhelmed and humbled by the show of support we received, and especially by the number of Filipinos who lined up on opening day. While we pride ourselves in bringing joy through our great tasting food and signature hospitality and service, I have to say that the excitement that emanated through the Filipino community on opening day brought us more joy than we could have imagined,” said Dennis Flores, Vice President for International Operations of Jollibee Foods Corporation. “Opening our store in the heart of the UAE just feels right. We’re ecstatic to bring this little bit of home closer to our kababayans. May they be nine hours or many years away from the Philippines, they will always feel at home at every Jollibee store.”
UAE is home to one of the largest Overseas Filipino populations in the Gulf Region. Many are lucky if they can make the trip home to see their families every year. This explains why Jollibee, being a joyful place that offers a Taste of Home, is always special.
The ‘taste of home’ can be found in Jollibee’s signature crispylicious and juicylicious Chickenjoy. Filipinos love it for its incomparably crispy skin and flavorful and juicy meat. There is also the Jolly Spaghetti, which is uniquely Filipino with a sweet-style meaty sauce. Lastly, a trip to Jollibee will be incomplete without trying their signature langhap sarap Yum! Burgers.
“Pumila talaga ako ng maaga kasi favorite ko talaga yung Chickenjoy with Jolly Spaghetti. Iba kasi talaga. Iba,” said Ramos. She then excitedly proceeded to a rundown of her order for her family, which included jolly favorites such as Chickenjoy, Jolly Spaghetti, and Yum! Burgers.
“It is already an unspoken rule sa aming magkakaibigan na kapag may galing ng Pilipinas o Dubai, kailangan may pasalubong na Jollibee,” added Jennifer Gumabon, a Nurse in Abu Dhabi for 11 years. “Ngayong may mas malapit nang Jollibee sa amin, siguradong ito na ang puntahan namin araw-araw.”
The February 8 opening of the Jollibee store in Al Falah comes on the heels of a December 2016 opening of Jollibee counters at Mushrif Mall, also in Abu Dhabi.
“Jollibee’s mission is to serve great tasting food and spread the joy of eating to everyone. It is this mission that serves as an anchor as we, in Jollibee International, bring a taste of home to Filipinos wherever they are around the world. In the UAE alone where hundreds of thousands of OFWs reside, we are looking at opening more stores in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and even in the Emirate of Sharjah soon as part of our more aggressive expansion plans in the UAE and in the Middle East,” Flores added. Exciting times are indeed ahead for Jollibee.
JFC is currently ranked as the largest Asian restaurant company in market capitalization, operating in 14 markets, with a total of 3,236 stores globally, of which 1,111 are Jollibee brand stores.