Jollibee, a popular fast-food restaurant from the Philippines, will open its first outlet in Hawaii today at 5 a.m. in the Waipahu Shopping Plaza.
Jollibee officials expected a full house for the pre-dawn opening at 94-300 Farrington Highway.
"I don’t know if people will line up as early as 5, but in all our past openings we’ve seen that happening," said Tommy King, vice president and U.S. manager for parent company Honeybee Food Corp. and Red Ribbon BakeShop Inc. USA.
A local management team of 10 was sent to California for training, and 150 crew members were hired to operate the first of possibly 10 Jollibee locations in Hawaii.
"It’s a very popular restaurant in the Philippines," where it originated, said Geminiano Arre Jr., president of the Filipino Community Center Inc. in Waipahu. "The food is good and the prices are very reasonable, and they have a lot of promotions for children," similar to McDonald’s Happy Meals, he said. "I have a suspicion it’s going to do very well."
He praised Jollibee for bringing employment to the area and said he and some staff members might brave the crowd today. "We like to check these outlets too, you know, because technically they could contribute to our effort, sharing the Philippine culture with others."
JOLLIBEE’S FIRST HAWAII STORE
» Where: Waipahu Shopping Plaza, 94-300 Farrington Highway
Arre noted that Max’s of Manila, a casual-dining restaurant that opened in the same shopping center in 2006, is also "doing very well and opened a second location" adjacent to the Iwilei Costco.
"I think these Filipino chain restaurants are looking for expansion into the United States, (based on) news reports that other Filipino restaurant enterprises are doing very well." He cited Valerio’s Bakery’s two stores in Waipahu and a third in Kalihi.
Filipinos and part-Filipinos make up nearly 23 percent of Hawaii’s population, or about 275,000 people, with about 70 percent of those living on Oahu.
Hawaii’s first Jollibee is No. 27 for the company in the U.S., but there are about 700 around the world, according to the company website. Jollibee began in 1975 as an ice cream parlor with two branches that also sold hot sandwiches, and today claims to be the Philippines’ No. 1 fast-food chain.
Jollibee’s Hawaii debut comes in a 5,910-square-foot space that will also house sister-concept Red Ribbon BakeShop, scheduled to open in the first quarter of next year, according to Jill Fijo, business development director.
Ten Red Ribbon stores are also planned, Fijo said, either "combined (with Jollibee) or stand-alone," depending on the real estate the company is able to secure in each planned location.
The quick-service eatery’s signature dishes include Chickenjoy, the chain’s brand of fried chicken; the Amazing Aloha, a burger bearing a beef patty, bacon, lettuce, cheese and a slice of pineapple; and Palabok Fiesta, a dish combining rice noodles, garlic sauce with pork cracklings, shrimp, parsley flakes and hard-cooked egg.
Lest those wanting to be first-day customers are still lined up past the breakfast hour, Jollibee’s breakfast menu is served all day and includes rice, egg, a tomato slice and proteins not found at many Hawaii eateries, such as Tocino (sweet pork), Crispy Bangus (milkfish belly) and Tapa (beef tenders) or Longganisa (pork sausage) — but there is also Spam.