A Jolly World: The Filipino Fast-Food Franchise that has Edmontonians Buzzing

The exterior of Jollibee

Review and photos by Mariah Hess

With over 1,100 Jollibee stores worldwide, would you believe me if I said that this Filipino fast food franchise began as a humble Ice Cream House in Quezon City, Philippines? There are now over 950 locations in the Philippines alone, and the franchise has expanded across the globe to places like Singapore, Dubai, Canada, USA, and Hong Kong. This world take-over is impressive, considering that Jollibee will be 42 years young on January 28.

On August 16, South Edmonton Calgary Trail welcomed their first Jollibee location, only the fifth one in Canada. People from all over Alberta have been making the trip to Edmonton just to partake in its Jolly fast-food delights. The excitement at its arrival is evident through its never-ending line-ups. One person reported to have lined up at four o’clock in the morning during opening week, only to be 57th in line. Having heard about these outrageous wait times that lasted almost six hours when the restaurant first opened, I was interested to know what my visit would bring me on this October Friday afternoon.

Much to my relief, there were tents situated along the side of the building in order to accommodate the many people in line and the nippy wind. As my friends and I entered the line, we were each handed a menu and a number. Employees came to us in the line-up to mark down our orders. With a few swift pen markings, they tore off the order sheet and handed it to us.

This was how they kept a smooth-running business, so that when it was time to place our order at the front counter, everything was already marked down for the cashiers. Waiting in line reminded me a little of waiting for a ride at an amusement park, as the employee at the very front of the line would only let a certain amount of people in at a time. It took about half an hour to finally reach the door.

Jollibee Front Counter

Once I stepped inside, I was reminded of the interior of a McDonald’s – the walls were a brown wooden colour, and the tables were a sharp, sparkling white. My senses were filled with the scent of oil and fried chicken, combined with the indistinct, loud chatter of happy customers. I observed as people carried bags full of food out the door to, I presumed, their hungry families. I am inclined to believe that customers often buy massive amounts of food here, because Jollibee had a set spending maximum of $60.

When it was my turn at the front counter, I was met with a “Jolly hello,” and an easy ordering experience as I simply handed my paper to the employee to punch into the system. I was given a buzzer and my pineapple juice, and I took a seat at a table in the corner of the restaurant with my friends.

While the pineapple juice was nothing out of the ordinary, it was refreshing and was exactly what I needed to compliment my meal. There were a variety of options to choose from on the menu – Jolly Crispy Chicken, Aloha Yum Burgers, Burger Steaks, Jolly Spaghetti, and Palabok (a popular Filipino noodle dish). I went for the Palabok with Chicken, while my friends ordered the Jolly Spaghetti, Yum Burger, and Burger Steak.

The chicken to me was everything I’d want in fried chicken – a crispy outside, and a warm, salty inside. I was happy that it was not overly oily, which made for an easier time to clean up after. The Palabok was a bed of thin white rice noodles that sat beneath an orange sauce that was made with pork, fish sauce, and fried garlic. The top was garnished with shrimp, soft-boiled eggs, crushed pork rinds, and parsley.

After mixing all of these components together with a fork, my first bite welcomed an abundance of flavours that danced on my tongue. The rice noodles had soaked up the rich sauce and I thought it paired nicely with the toppings. Adding lemon juice gave a pleasant acidic tang that really wrapped the whole dish together. The Palabok and chicken was enough to fill me almost to the brim, but there was one more thing that I had to save room for: dessert.

Jollibee Peach Mango Pie

Peach Mango Pie. It was a three-word combination that I didn’t hear often, but I was sure that it would be popping up again in the near future. The outer crust was dusted with sugar. When I sunk my teeth into it, my ears were met with the crunch from the crust, and my taste buds were met with the warm inside which oozed with sweetness.

For the range of meal options, you can expect to pay between $7 to $15, depending on how hungry you are. My meal, which included a drumstick of chicken, Palabok, pineapple juice, and a peach mango pie rounded out to about $13. This price was well worth my money as I was left full and satisfied. If the people buzzing around Jollibee were not enough to convince me that this place was worth returning to, then the food itself sold me, especially for its prices.

With the publicity that this restaurant has received, and the line ups not dying down any time soon, some may say that Edmonton’s Jollibee has grown into a kind of phenomenon. But why?

In the Philippines, Jollibee offers an affordable dining out experience for families, which undeniably fosters lasting memories right from childhood. Therefore there is an element of nostalgia that drives Jollibee’s popularity across the globe. It is a place for people to feel connected with these memories from home, despite being thousands of kilometers away.  

One customer commented: “I haven’t been home in ten years and it just makes me feel like I’m back home again.”

Food is an important element of any culture, and the fact that this franchise is Filipino-owned gives the community a chance to support a Filipino business and share in a sense of culture, which will undoubtedly continue Jollibee’s success.

What’s better than feeling like you are back home, reminded of happy childhood memories, all while eating good food? I couldn’t think of anything greater.

While you’re there, don’t forget to take a picture with Jollibee outside. He’ll be sure to leave you with a smile on your face, no matter how old you are.

Jollibee is open from 7a.m. to 11p.m. daily.
Edmonton location: 3803 Calgary Trail NW #914, Edmonton, AB T6J 7A9.