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FranchiseTalk: Jamaican Grill eyes PH to be first foreign market

The Guam-based barbecue restaurant chain wins over OFW market with its jerk chicken and pork ribs.


When you think of Jamaica, what usually comes to mind? For most, it’s usually breathtaking beaches, reggae music, and the dreadlocked Bob Marley. However, Jamaica is also home to a diverse cuisine with Spanish, British, African, and Indian influences.

Jamaica’s “jerk” style of cooking, where meat is dry-rubbed with a hot spice mixture then grilled, has been known the world over thanks to the popularity of jerk chicken and pork ribs. Inevitably, love for “jerk” barbecued meat and reggae music found its way among the people of the island of Guam.

The “fusion cuisine” of Jamaica and Guam, coupled with the communal enjoyment of reggae music, inspired the creation of Jamaican Grill in December 8, 1994. “All it took was small samples of jerk chicken and ribs to get them in the door,” recalled Frank Kenney, president of Jamaican Grill Restaurants.

After 22 successful years in Guam, Kenney believes that it is about time to introduce Jamaican Grill to the rest of the world, setting his sights on the Philippines as the barbecue restaurant chain’s first foreign market.


Jamaican Grill: Tried and tested by an overseas Filipino market

For Kenney, its proximity and the socio-cultural similarities with Guam makes the Philippines a great next market for Jamaican Grill. And since it opened in 1994, the restaurant chain has served a sizable overseas Filipino market—around 35% of Guam’s population is made up of Filipinos. Needless to say, Jamaican Grill is a concept that has been market-tested on Filipinos, even before it reaches our shores!

“Our Filipino guests insist that Jamaican Grill would work well in the Philippines,” noted Kenney. Its main menu offerings—composed mainly of grilled chicken, roast pork, and fish—are considered staple foods for most Filipinos. And to better cater to its overseas Filipino customers, Jamaican Grill has adjusted its menu to include local fare such as adobo ribs and tuna sisig. “There is no other restaurant company that takes the best island flavors of Jamaica, Guam, and the Philippines to create exciting taste combinations that are totally unique,” added Kenney.

However, the fusion of cultures is not only existent in Jamaican Grill’s menu offerings, but also in its restaurant design—featured fruits and store furniture imported from Philippines lend the restaurant a deft Filipino touch. “The carefully thought out design of our interiors result in an ambiance that appears bright, colorful, and theme-oriented, which showcases our one-of-a-kind island barbecue concept,” said Kenney.


Franchising: The key to Jamaican Grill’s global growth

Kenney believes that franchising is the key to push Jamaican Grill on a global growth, starting with the Philippines and its neighboring Asia-Pacific nations. Currently, he is on the lookout for the right franchise partner, who can then localize Jamaican Grill to better suit the Philippine market.

“We made this decision cautiously and deliberately after years of traveling back and forth to the Philippines, consulting with industry experts, conducting market research and product sourcing before making the final decision to move forward,” explained Kenney.

However, Kenney also acknowledges that Jamaican Grill’s success with the overseas Filipino market in Guam might not equate to success in the Philippines. “It will take much hard work and dedication, supporting our potential franchisee in a way that will reduce the risks associated with the venture,” he added.

“We believe in Jamaican Grill, and we believe in the Philippines as well. Lord willing, there is a fit here. And if both parties mutually live up to their responsibilities, the result could prove quite lucrative in the years to come,” concluded Kenney.

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