Jollibee has finally arrived on West Malaysian shores, opening its first outlet in Sunway Pyramid on February 8.
The expansion comes about 4 years after its first (and only) Malaysian outlet was launched in Kota Kinabalu’s (KK) Centre Point back in 2018.
So fans must be wondering, what took the Filipino fast-food chain so long to establish a presence closer to our capital city? According to its team, the pandemic had delayed their plans to expand around Malaysia.
In an exclusive media launch today, we got to interview Jollibee Malaysia’s team and learn more about what the public can expect once their doors open.
But first, food
I’m sure food is the first thing on everyone’s mind. At the launch, we got to try some of the dishes Malaysians can expect to see from Jollibee’s menu.
They include the brand’s famous regular and spicy Chickenjoy (we preferred the latter) and the Jolly Spaghetti (which was sweet and smoky to the palate).
While the regular Chickenjoy didn’t stand out much to us, my colleagues agreed that the spicy one triumphed over KFC’s. Later on, we found out in an interview with Jollibee Malaysia’s spokespeople that the spicy Chickenjoy isn’t offered in every outlet, but they believed Malaysians would be the right market for it (and they turned out to be correct!).
Following that, the outlet will also be debuting its Jollibee Spicy Chicken Sandwich at a later date.
Desserts-wise, the flavour of Jollibee’s Chocolate Sundae was reminiscent of the White Rabbit candy we grew up with.
At the launch, we learnt that Jollibee actually got its start as an ice cream parlour in 1975. Based on customer requests later, the outlet began selling chicken burgers and sandwiches, which became more popular than the ice cream itself and led to its pivot as a fast-food chain in 1978.
Unfortunately, we were unable to try these pivotal products as Jollibee would only begin taking orders tomorrow after its official launch.
Over time, customers can expect to see more menu items that are better localised to the flavour preferences of Malaysians.
Customers can make their orders at the counter and Jollibee’s self-order kiosks inside the store, exhibiting the brand’s move to stay on par with the competition’s digitalisation efforts.
50 stores in five years
At present, Jollibee has about 1,450 outlets worldwide, with restaurants in SEA, the Middle East, East Asia, North America, and Europe.
In 2019, it was reported that Jollibee wanted to open 100 outlets in Malaysia in the next 10 years, including 50 stores in Sabah and Sarawak.
But they didn’t manage to kick off these plans until now due to the pandemic, according to Rodel Alcantara and Alwyn Chong, Jollibee’s International Operations Manager and Managing Director, respectively.
But with the country recovering, the team is confident that its plans to expand 50 more Malaysian stores in the next five years will receive promising reception. The expansion is expected to open up 3,800 jobs to the locals.
Jollibee’s choice to open its first West Malaysian outlet in Sunway Pyramid is a strategic one. This is because the location receives a vibrant mix of residential visitors from Petaling Jaya, along with university students.
“Even during the pandemic, I think Sunway Pyramid was [one of] the first few malls to really recover,” pointed out Alwyn. “And I think they actually recovered faster than most [around the] central city area.”
Jollibee is placed at LG2 of the mall’s Blue Atrium, where foot traffic would be high from the events happening at the promotional area as well as the directional flow from the entrance of the mall.
The outlet will be one of the first few food options welcoming the tired and hungry theme park-goers, which would likely comprise tourists as well.
Rodel and Alwyn shared that Jollibee’s next outlet in West Malaysia is already established to be in Pavilion Bukit Jalil. Due to the population of the Klang Valley, the team plans to first focus on expanding here before moving into other states like Penang, Johor, and Melaka. KK residents can also expect to see more outlets in the coming years as well.