Leadership fueled by dedication, nourished by teamwork

Leadership fueled by dedication, nourished by teamwork

Jollibee Group CEO named MAP Management Person of the Year 2023

In celebration of his outstanding leadership, dedication, and exceptional contributions to nation-building, the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) has recognized Ernesto Tanmantiong, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Jollibee Foods Corporation (JFC), as the 2023 Management Person of the Year.

In his acceptance speech, Mr. Tanmantiong shared the story of Jollibee and highlighted the lessons he learned along the way.

At a young age, Mr. Tanmantiong discovered his passion for the food industry while assisting in his family’s Chinese restaurant in Davao City. He learned the value of discipline, hard work, and customer service directly from his father, who encouraged him to strive for excellence in everything in all aspects of their job. Later on, this lesson would guide the way Jollibee operated its businesses.

In 1975, he and his family opened their first ice cream parlors, eventually leading to Jollibee’s birth after customers demanded warm meals.

According to Mr. Tanmantiong, the first secret to Jollibee’s success was the beefy aroma of their burgers that attracted customers. This later became the inspiration for Jollibee’s “Langhap Sarap” campaign.

However, like any other brand, Jollibee has encountered numerous obstacles throughout its journey.

“One of the biggest [challenges] in the early years was the entry of McDonald’s to the Philippines in 1981,” he shared. ”At that time, we only had 12 stores. We were warned that McDonald’s tended to wipe out their local competition, so a lot of friends advised us to close the business.”

“So, instead of chickening out, we served Chickenjoy. And today, Chickenjoy has been voted the ‘best fried chicken’ not just in the Philippines but also in the United States, Hong Kong, and Singapore,” Mr. Tanmantiong added.

The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 was another significant challenge for the industry, but it also presented opportunities for JFC’s growth. The JFC executive emphasized that the company quickly redirected its business model to offer delivery options and implemented an accelerated digital roadmap to better understand and connect with customers.

Despite the obstacles, JFC returned to profitability in 2021 through robust cost restructuring and management. In 2022, they achieved record highs in sales and operating income, increasing by 40.2% and 58.4 % respectively from the previous year. The Jollibee Group also earned its best-ever first three quarters in its 45-year history, outperforming even the record-high quarter sales and operating income in 2022.

Under Mr. Tanmantiong’s leadership, the Jollibee Group expanded its global presence by opening Jollibee chains and acquiring restaurant brands in different countries, such as the Philippines, China, and the USA. JFC continued to grow and adapt, soon becoming a global restaurant company with 18 brands operating over 6,600 stores across 34 countries.

The Jollibee Group has also been recognized internationally for its commitment to excellence. They have received numerous awards, including TIME magazine’s World’s Best Companies and the Gallup Exceptional Workplace Award. Forbes also listed Jollibee Group among the World’s Best Employers for three consecutive years. In the US, Jollibee and its affiliated brands have been featured on Newsweek magazine’s list of America’s Favorite Restaurant Chains.

Meanwhile, Mr. Tanmantiong emphasized the essential role of leadership and responsible corporate citizenship in today’s global landscape, sharing the company’s commitment to sustainable business practices.

Earlier this year, JFC launched its Global Sustainability Agenda, aptly named “Joy for Tomorrow,” to create a more sustainable future. The agenda is based on three key pillars: Food, which focuses on providing quality food that can be trusted; Planet, which emphasizes treating the planet with care; and People, which aims to uplift the lives of people in our communities.

Central to JFC’s sustainability efforts is the commitment to supporting communities with the following programs: Farmer’s Entrepreneurship Program; Busog, Lusog, Talino (BLT) School Feeding Program; and the Jollibee Group FoodAID disaster response program.

Lessons on leadership

As Jollibee celebrated its 45th anniversary, Mr. Tanmantiong reflected on the leadership lessons he learned throughout the company’s journey.

First, he emphasized the importance of building a team of skilled, enthusiastic, and committed individuals. Since the early days of Jollibee, he acknowledged the necessity of working together with professionals who shared the company’s principles and could aid in its development.

“All of this would not have been possible without the dedication of all the people who have worked at Jollibee throughout the years… To me, they are the rightful recipients of this leadership award. I am blessed to work with so many talented and hardworking leaders and individuals who continue to support our journey to be one of the world’s best restaurant companies,” said Mr. Tanmantiong.

JFC’s success story, according to him, is also based on the principle of genuine sharing. He underlined the importance of giving, even if it requires sacrificing personal resources or time.

Moreover, he urged leaders to maintain a positive outlook on the future, highlighting the importance of viewing challenges as opportunities for growth.

“For me, I take comfort in this thought: that every crisis or setback comes with a learning moment to progress myself or the company,” he said.

Lastly, Mr. Tanmantiong emphasized the significance of dreaming big with passion and commitment. He attributed Jollibee’s success to the company’s ambitious dream 45 years ago, highlighting the importance of dedication and perseverance in overcoming failures.

“People often ask, ‘What is the secret to JFC’s success?’ My four lessons above sum up my answer. It all starts with lesson 1. The competition may have had all the resources, but there is one thing they didn’t have and that is the JFC team,” said Mr. Tanmantiong. It is that team, coupled with Mr. Tanmantiong’s inspiring leadership, that will propel the company to its vision of becoming one of the top five restaurant companies in the world.


Spotlight is BusinessWorld’s sponsored section that allows advertisers to amplify their brand and connect with BusinessWorld’s audience by enabling them to publish their stories directly on the BusinessWorld website. For more information, send an email to online@bworldonline.com.

Join us on Viber at https://bit.ly/3hv6bLA to get more updates and subscribe to BusinessWorld’s titles and get exclusive content through www.bworld-x.com.