Friday, December 22, 2006



"Fortune favors the brave!" Whoever coined that Latin saying centuries ago must have been thinking about Jollibee.

Anyone who knows the QSR business will tell you that one of the keys to success is aggressive store expansion. Opening as many stores as you can not only makes your food accessible to many more customers, it also gets the brand known.

Well and good,that is, if you're confident enough that the business climate is so favorable that every store you open will make a profit.

But what if the business conditions are not so good?

That was the state of things when I first started in the fastfood industry in 1983.

Ninoy Aquino had just been assassinated on August 21. There were rallies everywhere and there were fears that Marcos would have a good excuse to impose martial law once again (although we were still under what was called his "benevolent dictatorship.")

In the face of all this chaos and uncertainty, many businesses took a wait and see attitude. That's what happened to us at KFC.

When I joined KFC, it already had 11 stores. I helped open one store in Dau,Pampanga sometime in December,1983. Then when I left KFC in 1985,we had opened only 2 more outlets (Greenbelt and Katipunan) for a total of 14.

Contrast this with Jollibee.

When I joined the company in 1985, it already had 20 stores. Jollibee was going through the same uncertain business climate as KFC and yet it was expanding aggressively.In fact,it was scheduled to open 4 stores during the second half of 1985. I know because one of my first assignments was to train the managers who would man these new stores.

All other players in the industry seemed to be taking a more cautious and conservative stance.

Jollibee's gamble paid off handsomely. When Marcos was finally overthrown in February,1986 and the business climate turned for the better, guess which brand had the most number of stores!

By the end of 1986, Jollibee was 27 store strong and to top it all,these stores were making good sales. We also ended the year Number one in sales among the QSRs. KFC,which was still beset with labor-management problems had dropped to about number 4 behind McDonald's and Shakey's.

Time and again,during my more than 14 years stint at Jollibee,I was going to witness and be part of this phenomenon of "thriving in chaos" which was to be characteristic of the company.As I will write in future blogs,Jollibee always had a way of turning problems into opportunities for progress.

And I sure am glad I was part of it all!

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