The Success Story of Tony Tan Caktiong’s Jollibee

Ever asked about the man who made Jollibee? Ever wonder about how Jollibee was established? Well, we’ve got the man, Tony Tan Caktiong! HIs story to success was not a smooth one, for he has undergone a lot of trials just to reach the place where stands now. Let us all be inspired by the life story and the success story of Tony.

Tony Tan Caktiong is a Chinese national with pure Chinese descent. Their family is among the Chinese families who went to the Philippines to seek for a greater fortune, and to escape the impoverished life in Fujian Province in China. Upon arriving here, his father got hired as a chef in a  Chinese Temple. Being hardworking, his father has been later offered to open his own restaurant in Davao. Since they do not want to lose the opportunity, the whole family moved south. Tony, believed that it was one of the turning points of their life. Since they got hold of the business, he, together with his five other siblings worked hard and aided his parents in making the business a success. When the business stabilized, Tony went back to Manila to study college. He took up Chemical Engineering at University of Sto. Tomas.

Enjoying his youth under the city lights of Manila opened his eyes for a wide range of opportunities. So one time in 1975, when they visited Magnolia Ice Cream Plant located in Quezon city, he immediately took up interest in the business, especially when he learned that the company is open for franchise. What the young Tony did was borrowed P350, 000 from their family savings to open two franchise in Cubao and Quiapo. He named the one in Cubao as Cubao Ice Cream House, and the one in Quiapo as Quiapo Ice Cream House. This business venture was done as a group, because some of his colleagues supported him. Just few months after opening, they realized that they need to set up a more organized group, which includes store managers and trained people. Originally, the only thing they served in the house was ice cream. But as more customers come and go, they noticed that people are craving for more and for something else. So the group conceptualized and decided about adding sandwiches and hamburgers in the menu list. It was warmly welcomed by their customers. There even came the point where their burgers sell more than that of the original ice cream products. In 1978, they already have six stores because of this. After six stores, Toni and his colleagues encountered a problem – what would they name their business?

It was the start of Jollibee. Tony and his business partners came up with the idea that Filipinos are very busy all the time, yet happy and always smiling. So, they think of a symbol or a representation. And viola! Bee is the symbol for the busiest insect, and it produces honey (just like Filipino’s fruits of labor). So, they only need one more thing – how would they transpose bee into being happy? Jolly plus Bee equals Jollibee. That’s it! They named all their branches Jollibee. However, during the transition phase, McDonalds, the international fast food was set to also enter the Philippines. However, this did not threatened the group because they are confident that no matter what, they know the Filipino consumers more than anyone else.

Staying in the Philippines for over decades already, Tony believed that he knew and he’s a lot grounded to the culture of the Filipinos. Tony narrates: “Filipinos also like to smell their food before they eat it. They want to be sure it smells delicious before they take a bite. Sometimes they would open a kettle and say, what’s this? It smells good! This was proved by the Langhap-Sarap advertising campaign by Basic [Footcone and Belding]. They did it for us initially for the hamburger, and when it became successful, we started using it as a campaign slogan for the other products.”

Jollibee also expanded its range of products. From ice cream to burgers and sandwiches, to rice/chicken meals up to the their trademark spaghetti. Tony’s discovery of the right taste of Jolly Spaghetti was not an easy one., he said that he needed the help of his sister, and a very tedious research and development, and marketing job to perfect the taste of that spaghetti. Now, who would not speak of spaghetti when jollibee is mentioned?

Not only is Jollibee is a successful business; it is also a successful source of a lot of other side businesses like Greenwich, Chowking, Delifrance, and the newly acquired Red Ribbon. indeed , Jollibee has made all things possible for the entrepreneur that is Tony Tan Caktiong. When asked what’s the secret of Jollibee’s success, Tony says: “If you have to ask, the secret of Jollibee’s success is sharing. We share our success with people; we give good compensation; we share any honor that comes our way. Actually, this idea of sharing didn’t come from me. It came from a friend. He said: You know why you’re successful? You know how to share. A lot of people do not share, but in Jollibee you share a lot with your people.”

Truly, Tony’s story and his path to success is a very inspiring one. The dedication he has put through in his business, the confidence he showed about his business performance is really a remarkable one. Because of this, Tony has received a lot of awards. Some of these are: Management Man of the Year in 2002, Agora Award for Outstanding Marketing Achievement, Triple A Alumni Award for the Asian Institute of Management, and Ten Outstanding Young Men Award for Entrepreneurship. Despite these achievements, Tony remained the humble person that he is. His Jollibee is doing very fine today, having at least 1, 385 stores in the country and 174 stores overseas.  

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