On a chilly day in New York City, only a short walk from Times Square, a line of human beings has formed; they’re neatly herded with the aid of a rope in front of an unassuming constructing sandwiched between the town’s many skyscrapers. A guy stands shield via the door, asking people how many humans are of their birthday party and ushering in only a few at a time.

It isn’t the scene outside some warm New York City nightclub. It’s lunchtime in Midtown and the gang is ready to eat at Manhattan’s first Jollibee — unexpectedly, it’s the location to be.

Jollibee, known as “the McDonald’s of the Philippines” — where it changed into founded — has a notably small presence in the U.S.; there are handiest 37 stores over a handful of states. But within the Philippines the quick-food chain is an absolute sensation, handily beating McDonald’s and Burger King in recognition and local marketplace share. There, Jollibee has greater than 750 stores and is a dominant marketplace chief.

Now, Jollibee is aiming to win over more Americans, with plans to grow to 150 shops in the subsequent 5 years. And it’s making development: Store openings appeal to crowds (at the October Manhattan area establishing a couple showed up 20 hours early to be first in line for a year of unfastened fried fowl), social media influencers love Jollibee, and fans and analysts alike have in comparison the meals to American staples like Kentucky Fried Chicken. Jollibee declines to reveal U.S. Income figures but tells CNBC Make It that it had “report-setting, double-digit sales increase in 2017.”

A large part of Jollibee’s “secret sauce” is its menu, that’s eclectic by means of American fast-meals requirements.

“One of the important thing matters truly is that its famous food — fried chicken, pasta, pies — but it’s twisted in a specific manner that’s especially true to Jollibee in its area of expertise,” Jose Minana, Jollibee’s organization president for North America, tells CNBC Make It. “It’s almost like a mosaic of different flavors, it’s not simply that one blanket that fits all.”

Offerings vary via region, but there are fan favorites.

Take Jolly Spaghetti: The purple sauce on the noodles is sweet, made from banana ketchup (a Filipino staple), and the concoction additionally has ground meat, hot dog slices, and cheese, which add a tangy taste.

Then there’s Jollibee’s most well-known presenting — Chickenjoy. The hand-breaded fried bird is praised for being crispy and juicy; it’s made with a secret marinade and served with a side of gravy that’s been referred to as “ethereal. ” It is frequently ordered as a blend with Jolly Spaghetti.

”[Jollibee] goes to be up there whilst we speak approximately Chick-fil-A and KFC, who’s were given the pleasant chook?” Kara Nielsen, vice president of traits and advertising at meals and beverage consulting company CCD Helmsman, tells CNBC Make It. “That I may want to see occurring.”

(Kentucky Fried Chicken did not reply to CNBC Make Its request for comment.)

But it’s not simply the spaghetti and chicken. Fans love menu gadgets like Fiesta Noodles (a recreation of “pancit palabok,” a noodle dish with toppings like shrimp, ground meat and tough-boiled eggs); Breakfast Joy Corned Beef (served with garlic rice and a fried egg); and for dessert, peach and Filipino mango pie or Halo-Halo (a concoction of shaved ice, tube and jackfruit ice cream, leche flan and jellies).

Prices are just like other speedy meals, and Jollibee has stores in California, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Virginia, and Washington kingdom. Its general approach within the U.S. Is to open in areas with denser Filipino-American populations, to provide them a “familiar feeling of home,” the agency says.

In the busy Midtown Manhattan Jollibee — in which personnel chirp, “Have a jolly day!” while upbeat song performs within the heritage — 31-year-old purchaser Cara is at the beginning from the Philippines. She says Chickenjoy is certainly nostalgic for her.

In the Philippines, “maximum youngsters have Jollibee birthday events; we don’t have McDonald’s birthday events,” she says. “It’s funny because fried chicken is traditionally not a Filipino food issue, but by hook or by crook, Chickenjoy is, that is sort of weird and form of sudden.” She took her co-people for their first Jollibee revel in.

And Jollibee has been recommended by means of the reception at the Manhattan region, where there is surely not a particularly huge Filipino population, says Minana.

“It’s very humbling after they proportion their gratitude for us coming here, saying, ‘Thanks for giving us a new manner of eating,’” Minana tells CNBC Make It.

Felix, an 18-12 months-old from Hoboken, New Jersey, is within the Midtown Jollibee munching Chickenjoy for the first time. “It’s pretty desirable … Better than McDonald’s,” he says. (McDonald’s did no longer immediately return CNBC Make Its request for remark.)

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