The BEE Had Been Stung

The news isn’t new. Pinoy blogs had carried for weeks the story of this American blogger’s deprecating review of a Jollibee joint in the U.S. of A. Many Pinoys view the insult as a mockery of their culture. After all, Jollibee, the much revered fast food chain is a hero back home. Jollibee beat McDonalds hands down in its own game in the Philippines with its cheaper and uniquely Pinoy version of the hamburger . Credit the win to aggressive marketing and the addition of a variety of cafeteria type, fast food version of authentic dishes such as palabok, sotanghon and gelatin flavored drinks on its menu – in short, Filipinizing the junk food offering.

Now Jollibee is a fast food giant that had grown big and had ventured into foreign lands. Is the foray into Big Mac’s birthplace a mistake? Why is Jollibee in the U.S. of A ? Is it there to compete with McDonalds, Burger King and Wendys or to satisfy the sweeth tooth of Filipino- Americans? We all know that Jollibee carries authentic Filipino dishes more than its weird, sweet-tasting hamburgers and plain tasting fried chicken so what’s the big deal?

Most North American large urban centers are cosmopolitan, made up of diverse cultures from all over the world. Restaurant and fast food malls celebrate the diversity of exotic food from different nations which had over the years become standard palate to its citizens. It is common to see Lebanese shawarmas and falafels, Japanese sushi, Vietnamese pho soup, Jamaican jerk meats, Thai pad-thai noodles , Indian samosas and pakoras side by side in fast food lounges in malls and shopping centers. To add emphasis to its authenticity, the food stalls are in most cases manned and operated by immigrants that represent the country where the food originated. Does Jollibee qualify to represent and showcase Filipino cuisine ? Must it take away the hamburger, fried chicken and spaghetti and sell authentic Pinoy dishes instead? Problem is, what is one’s impression of a restaurant with a cartoon character name selling authentic dishes? I mean, what would one think of a restaurant named Humpty Dumpty specializing in Indian cuisine?

The name Jollibee is corny and the use of concocted adjectives such as crispylicious, juicylicious sound downright tacky to the ordinary North American ear. No matter what Jollibee puts on the menu , its image is permanently cast in hamburgers, fries and coke. Jollibee is a fast food chain that beat McDonalds in the junk food business back in RP period . It can’t claim or even pretend to be an icon of authentic Filipino cuisine. Moreover, when you bastardize food and export it back where it originally belonged, don’t expect to hear kind words.


24 Responses

  1. Actually, I don’t know what was going on in the mind of Jollibee’s Management when they decided, with a lot of fanfare, to open up branches in the US. Giving the Americans a taste of their own medicine perhaps? Or just getting cocky because they managed to beat Macdonald’s here. I had expected this to happen once they open up branches in the US of A… Stupid decision, really.

    Oh btw, I don’t like jolibee hamburgers either…

  2. I think quality is a real serious issue. What would people pay for “yumburgers” that look like they’re kid’s meal sizes? Jollibee must realize that the playing fields in RP and the USA are drastically different. I mean Jollibee can probably survive if it places itself in Pinoy malls.

  3. I used to be a patron of Jollibee. It’s been almost 15 years since I’ve been to one, so I can’t really remember what their hamburgers of spaghetti takes like. But I remember craving Filipino food when I first came here in Winnipeg. There is a big difference in the way Asians and Westerners prepare, season and cook their food. I think its a matter of cultural diversity, palate preferences, etc.

    That blogger did admit that she had been an Ugly American criticizing Filipino dishes. And it’s just normal for us to be offended. But hey, that’s what she thought. We’ll still like our Filipino dishes no matter what.

    So, are these Jollibee stores located at places with large Filipino communities? Because why would they if it isn’t so, eh?

  4. Was Jolibee placed in the States to compete with other American fastfood chains or it’s there primarily to serve the Filipino market? Because if it’s the latter, then Jollibee foods are not intended for those ugly americans. Saying nasty things about Jolibee is tantamount to insulting the taste of most Pinoys.

  5. Niceheart – I think it has more to do with the image Jollibee portrays. The crispylicious and juicylicious ads are expressions that would draw criticism from North Americans. If you get into Jollibee’s website, the testimonies ( true or untrue) of people
    borders on the silly if not hilarious. There’s this woman who actually credits Jollibee chicken joy for harmonizing her relationship with her husband! I’m thinking that the ugly american’s nasty criticism was fed by the tacky ad.

    I totally agree with you on the issue of taste. My wife still prefers the taste of Filipino spaghetti – sweet, with chunks of hot dog and ham and she eats it with rice too. Just do it at the comfort of your home and no one would accuse you of causing culinary death to a dish! Jollibee’s fault is perhaps assuming that they had developed a universally acceptable product and their success in RP can continue on in other places without any adjustments.

  6. Abaniko – I think that Jollibee should locate itself in predominantly Pinoy malls and shopping centers and go after the Pinoy taste bud unless it thinks it can crack the fast food market with its products. The problem is the food tastes nothing more than cafeteria food. When you’re in a market with tons of competition, you ought to deliver a competitive, better tasting product and get rid of the corny ads.

  7. My kids prefer KFC. 😉


  8. Nice to hear from you Angelo. Hey, many people will agree with your kids 🙂

  9. sweetened spaghetti is definitely an acquired taste. Filipinos shoudn’t take offense if such acquired tastes are unsavoury to foreigners…

  10. Irrealis – The ugly american certainly had something to say but I also think Jollibee was deserving the sting with their mass-produced, crappy tasting food.

  11. For me Jollibee does not really represent the Filipino Cuisine for its all about American food ever since although they have to adjust into the local taste with the langhap-sarap move of ’em. I thought if they’d ever venture into other countries like for example America and the middle-east, they should make some kind of study and offer products that should adjust and appeal to the taste and culture of the new country. It was sort of amateurish for a big corporation like the Jollibee Food Corp. (Freemont Corp.) not to ever do any feasibility study.

  12. Major Tom – Jollibee joints in the US are in areas populated by Pinoys. If it wants acceptance from Americans, I agree, it better adjust – its image and quality more importantly.

  13. I clicked on the link and bothered to read the shallow food review of this American blogger. But I was not that bothered because, after all, that is her opinion and we should respect that.

    If I had it my way, I wouldn’t even bother to give her so much “free publicity.” Sayang lang ang oras e puro negative naman ang content ng blog post niya.

    Jollibee is Jollibee. It never claimed to represent authentic Filipino food (I think). If people like its food offerings, well and good. If not, then, no sweat. It’s a case of ‘to each his own.’

    When it comes to fast food choices, I’m partial to KFC and Kenny Rogers. But I wouldn’t mind eating Jollibee’s Chicken Joy every now and then — no matter what an American blogger, who doesn’t know where Manila is, thinks.

  14. True, one must not take the ugly american seriously and launch an air strike! If ever, I the criticism should improve Jollibee’s image and service.

  15. Btw, I hate the bland taste of Chickenjoy. I prefer Max’s and KFC chickens. But I like their palabok. And I agree, their corny taglines won’t work in America.

  16. those Americans have every right to say what they thought was odd to their palate. we think and say the same things when we are not satisfied with the food, or the food tastes do not match our taste buds. here in the Philippines, McDo’s products also receive almost the same nasty remarks.

    and btw, i am not a Jollibee fan, too.

  17. Definitely falls in the area of acquired taste. I’ve seen many Jamaicans pick up chocolate pork
    ( diniguan – he he ) at a Pinoy food store here.. and we know that dinuguan – just the thought of pork stewed in pork blood and vinegar sounds gross to most foreigners..

  18. Hi bro! Just dropped by to tell you that I’ve moved to this address:

    See ya! 😀

  19. Ahahaha! You blogged about it, too!

  20. How come no one seems to have noticed my screed? They all went to you, I guess.

  21. Just came back from spring break vacation ….

    SNGL – Nice to know you’ve got your own site now.

    X-P – what’s up dude. Yep, I did pick up the Jollibee brouhaha like so many other bloggers.

  22. please read my blog

  23. […] friendship permanently I also got a couple of not-so-friendly emails when I blogged about the Jolibee brouhaha a couple of years ago. Strange how Pinoy patriotism shows up defending a wannabe like Jolibee who […]

  24. I Love KFC. Especially the Fries.

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