A Jollibee outlet in Manila. Jollibee Foods Corporation has entered into a joint venture with Golden Crown Foods to establish a company that will own and operate Jollibee stores in the UAE. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Dubai: Filipino expatriates have welcomed news that the popular fast-food chain Jollibee, which they say symbolises a taste of ‘home’, will operate its own restaurants in Dubai this year.

The Manila-based Jollibee Foods Corporation (JFC) recently announced that it had entered a joint venture agreement with the UAE’s Golden Crown Foods to establish a company that will own and operate Jollibee stores in the UAE. Jollibee serves burgers, spaghetti and chicken meals with a Filipino twist.

The company is choosing between Deira and Satwa for its first store location, complete with facilities for the traditional ‘kiddie parties’.

Luzviminda Macaspac, a sales executive who has been in Dubai for eight years, welcomed the news, saying she and her colleagues could now stop ordering their favourite Jollibee meals from relatives in the Philippines.

“Whenever a relative from the Philippines comes to Dubai for a visit, I always order a takeout from Jollibee,” Macaspac, 32, told Gulf News. “I patiently wait eight hours for my meal to be ‘delivered’ here.”

Macaspac said Jollibee has always symbolised the Filipino spirit of light-heartedness.

“Jollibee represents joy and happiness and brings back happy memories of our childhood,” Macaspac said. “It’s the go-to place to celebrate important moments in our lives.”

Karen Ramos, a nurse in Abu Dhabi, was elated at the news and said she hoped the UAE capital would get its own franchise.

“I’m glad we don’t have to wait for our annual leave or rely on friends coming over to get that taste of home,” Ramos told Gulf News. “It’s a familiar taste for our palate since we grew up with Jollibee.”

While the first store will be in Dubai, JFC plans to operate a minimum of 25 stores across the country in the long run, said Dennis Flores, JFC Vice-President for Global Filipino Markets-International Operations.

“Filipinos in the UAE will experience that familiar taste of home and warm, friendly ambience every time they step into a Jollibee store,” Flores told Gulf News in an interview from Manila.

Flores clarified that this is corporation’s first venture in the UAE. A Jollibee franchisee opened a shop here earlier but continued to operate even after the franchise term had expired, affecting the quality of the services offered.

Flores said that won’t be the case this time as Filipinos can expect authentic Jollibee meals in the new venture. A delivery service will also be available after a few months.

Flores also said there may be job opportunities for Filipinos in the UAE who had previous experience working in Jollibee in the Philippines.