A few months ago a small new indoor mall opened in Dumaguete. It contains an American style food court, anchored by 3 common restaurant chains, Jollibee, Chow King, and Mang Inasal. You can purchase a decent size meal at any of them for less than 150 pesos ($3 U.S). In my opinion, that’s a great value. The only remaining questions then are, “What do you have a taste for and how good is the food?”
The Jollibee menu focuses on burgers, fries, spaghetti, and fried chicken. I have tasted all of them and I’m not impressed. I’m not impressed at all. Did I mention I’m not impressed? The one thing I can say about Jollibee is that it really makes me appreciate McDonald’s (or Burger King). Let’s move on.
Chow King offers about the same number of menu choices as Jollibee. The food I’ve tried is ok. I do prefer their fried chicken to Jollibee. I don’t have a lot to say one way or the other about this chain.
Mang Inasal offers a very limited menu. Probably 75% or more of its customers simply order the grilled chicken. It’s what I order and I have never been disappointed. I find it quite tasty, and I like the fact that its grilled, not fried. Where Mang Inasal comes up short is its side dishes. They only have one, white rice. Some people say their success is due to the fact they offer unlimited rice for a small additional price. Since I don’t eat more than the standard scoop of rice, the offer of unlimited rice means nothing to me.
I’ve eaten at the new Dumaguete mall quite often and observed how well the 3 restaurants are doing. It would appear that Chow King is losing badly to it’s 2 neighbors. My conclusion is that Jollibee has superior marketing and Mang Inasal has a superior product. In reality, although there are 3 restaurants in competition, its basically 2 against 1 since Jollibee owns Mang Inasal.
For dessert, Chow King and Mang Inasal offer halo halo, while Jollibee offers ice cream. Despite being in the Philippines for well over a year, I have never become a fan of the traditional halo halo. I would strongly prefer a Jollibee ice cream treat. Whenever I do partake of halo halo, I always wonder whether the inventor was of sound mind.
My favorite of the three restaurants is by far, Mang Inasal. It’s also my wife’s favorite. In fact, we prefer it over KFC, another chain well represented in the Philippines. My impression is that most Philippine adults prefer Mang Inasal while younger people prefer Jollibee.
Jollibee and Chow King have cracked the US market operating stores in several states. I don’t know how well they are doing but suspect they rely heavily on the Filipino American community. If I were to guess which chain had a better chance of long-term success in the USA, I would bet on Chow King. Its menu differs more from the primary competition of established chains such as McDonald’s.
I tried to research if Mang Inasal has cracked the U.S. Market, and it would appear the answer is no. Personally, I think it could be successful if it altered it’s marketing just a little. Its core product (grilled chicken on a stick) doesn’t need any changes as I believe Americans will enjoy its taste. They only need to create a couple of side dishes to go along with the white rice.
My favorite American chicken franchise is Popeye’s. Choosing between Popeye’s fried chicken and Mang Inasal’s grilled chicken would be a tough choice for me. Hopefully, someday in either the USA or the Philippines, I’ll have the opportunity to make that choice.