One of the reasons why Jollibee managed to leave everyone else in its wake is that the owners were never scared of competition. The Jollibee logo might portray a happy,smiling and amiable bee...but what most people didn't know was...this bee knew how to sting.
I heard this story from one of the Tan brothers, Ernesto "S' Ato" Tanmantiong. When news about McDonald's coming into the Philippines started spreading, (I believe this was in 1978,when Jollibee was just 3 years old), their friends advised them not to compete with this international giant.
"Close down," they were told. Or look for another business (perhaps franchise an international brand.) The unsolicited advice was not without any factual basis because McDonald's had built a reputation of always taking over the number one position in every country they had opened.
But the Tans were not fazed. Instead of exiting gracefully,they decided to give McDonald's a fight like they never experienced before.
Since this was supposedly a heavyweight that they were facing,the Tans made sure that Jollibee was fighting in the same weight class as its adversary. They went to the USA to study the competition and learn what they needed to change in Jollibee's operations.
I was told that the brothers would go into a McD's and study the operations as customers. They would pose in front of the counter as if to have their picture taken,but actually they were taking shots of the menu board and whatever could be seen of the kitchen.
When they came back from their "study tour" they started renovating their existing stores and opening new ones according to a store model that was close to the international look they saw in the USA. If I remember right, the store in the old Virra Mall was the first one to sport that new ambience, although it was still basically a semi-waiter service type of operation.
The shift to the new look must have caught McDonald's by surprise.
S' Ato narrates that during one of the grand openings of the "new model" Jollibee stores, he once saw George Yang, the McDonald's franchisee,"paying a visit." He recalls seeing a look of surprise and concern on Mr. Yang's face that time. Perhaps George Yang may have been surprised at how well Jollibee had renewed itself, and realized then that the bee he was supposedly going to squash was, after all, no pushover.
And history has proven that Mr. Yang's gut feel was right!