I was so excited when I heard that Jollibee were planning a new store opening right here in Liverpool! Originating in the Philippines and still operated by the founder Tony and his family, Jollibee was one of my favourite fast food places when I worked in Vietnam and is more popular than KFC in many parts of Asia. The first British store opened in London in 2018, and just two weeks after the store launch that one site had sold over half a million pieces of chicken!
I was invited along to the opening of their second store in the UK earlier this month. If you’re not familiar with the concept, the menu at Jollibee is a little… different! As you would expect they’re inspired by their Asian roots, which means you’ll find options like sweet spaghetti and fresh pineapple juice on their menu! Liverpool customers will be the first to try some brand-new menu items including Asian Slaw, a Mango Coconut Sundae, and an Asian Chicken Tender Rice Bowl. But my absolute favourite is the Aloha Tropical Chicken Burger which brings together a juicy chicken fillet, cheese, bacon, sweet chilli sauce and a big fat slice of pineapple!
Now before you get all upset about the idea of pineapple on a burger please remember I am Australian and we put all kinds of weird stuff on burgers including tinned pineapple rings, beetroot and the occasional fried egg. I know what I like, and pineapple on a burger features pretty high on that list.
The store is located on Whitechapel in the site formerly occupied by Lush. Their interior is bright and welcoming and features a traditional service counter alongside self-order screens. There’s a large queuing area and the majority of the seating is located on the first floor. As expected, Covid-Safe measures are in place such as screens on their counter, but this didn’t hamper the service. In fact, it was one of the best exchanges I’ve had in a fast food restaurant for a long time!
Server (with a HUGE smile on her face): “Hi! Welcome to Jollibee! What can I get for you today?”
Me: “I don’t know… What’s your favourite thing?”
Server: “Well, I absolutely love the Aloha Burger. It’s a little different – it’s got bacon and pineapple on it – but it tastes fantastic with the crunchy chicken and I really like it!”
Me: “I like pineapple! That sounds great!”
Server: “Oh then you HAVE to try our fresh pineapple juice. It comes as part of the meal deal and it’s delicious!”
Me: “Great! Let’s do that then! Do you have any of the Asian Slaw?”
Server: “I’m so sorry, we don’t – it’s been such a popular choice this morning that we’ve run out! The people of Liverpool are really loving our Asian Slaw today!”
Me: “No problem, I’ll get it next time.”
Server: “You’ll love it. Here’s your receipt, just head upstairs and find a table and our team will come and find you when your food is ready!”
Now, bear in mind that this was a server on her first shift in a brand-new restaurant. Her first day serving customers and she already knew the menu inside out and was able to recommend a favourite and upsell completely naturally. I don’t know about you, but for me that speaks volumes about Jollibee’s staff training. They’re proudly family-owned, and their promise to bring great service and a smile to every customer was certainly evident in our exchange.
The food was incredible, even better than I remember it being in Vietnam. Their fried chicken is crunchy without being greasy, and the pineapple really did work well with the salty bacon and the tangy cheese. The fresh pineapple juice was ice-cold and refreshing and didn’t leave me feeling full in the way that fizzy drinks sometimes can.
This is only the second Jollibee UK site outside of London, but they have some serious growth targets with plans to open in Leicester later this year, followed by another 50 stores across the UK over the next 3-5 years. I’d like to think that their second site choice was intentional as international brands entering the UK finally realise that Liverpool is fast becoming the foodie capital of the north!
Are you an international business looking to make the move into your first bricks and mortar site in Liverpool? Why not get in touch…