Dubai: Die-hard Jollibee fans have created quite a stir on Monday on the opening of the chain's first Dubai store.
Jollibee, a popular Filipino-branded burger joint, opened its outlet next to popular global fast-food outlets at the Dubai Mall, to the cheer—or frustration— of hundreds of customers.
The store’s smiling bee-like mascot created a buzz, too, at the mall’s food court. The social media hummed with images of tortuous lines of hungry fans outside the outlet on the morning of its May 4 opening.
lang="en" dir="ltr">Fried chicken is big in Dubai! All of these people are in line for new restaurant called "Jollibee" at Dubai Mall. pic.twitter.com/GpNC2AamFX— Adam Falat (@adamfalat) May 4, 2015
The mall security formed a queue system similar to an airport check-in counter outside the shop to manage the crowd.
Filipina Angela Conejero raved on Twitter: "Upon seeing that Jollibee has finally opened in Dubai Mall, I realised there's no reason for me to stay in the Philippines."
Some curious onlookers, many non-Filipinos, wondered what the fuzz was all about, and even joined the line. Social media denizens tweeted pictures of the queue snaking past other food outlets nearby.
lang="en" dir="ltr">Blockbuster opening of Jollibee Dubai#Lucky 4 me #photogrid @photogridorg https://t.co/VdELTAmwcJ— Josefina Cuasay (@maygirlie) May 4, 2015
Joey, who works for a Dubai firm, turned up at 8am on Monday— two hours prior to the official opening—and brought home two buckets of “Chicken Joy” for her son’s sixth birthday bash.
Lowell, an aircraft mechanic, waited for four hours from 11am before he could have his lunch at 3pm: "For a 'fast food' it's unusual. It was torture." He took orders for his friends, too, but vowed to come back another day when the crowd is gone.
Some came all the way from Abu Dhabi, the UAE capital more than a hour by car. The packed outlet resembled a similar atmosphere around the opening of Jollibee stores in Singapore and certain US cities, where the anticipation has created a thrill among Jollibee fans, especially expatriate Filipinos.
The Manila-based quick-service restaurant chain, founded in 1978, has become an icon of Filipino fast food. In 2013, it had more than 900 stores, including 101 outlets abroad (29 in the US), according to the website of the Philippine Stock Exchange, where the food giant's shares are actively traded.
There are an estimated half a million Filipinos in Dubai, where a second Jollibee outlet is already planned to open in Bur Juman soon.
While most people are happy to spend hours on the queue to earn bragging rights of being first to sink their teeth on an authentic Jollibee fare in Dubai, some were turned off by the logjam at the counters.
And does the food in its Dubai store taste anything like those in the Philippines?
“Yeah, they’re about the same,” said a Filipina mother of two, eager to give her children a taste of Filipino quick-service restaurant. “It’s just the first day…don’t know if they’ll keep it that way.”
Lowell said: "It's genuine Jollibee, down to the gravy."