Metro Manila’s Fast Food Scene is Growing and Shaping What We Eat

January 15, 2020

Fast food has become a necessary evil in Metro Manila. Commercial areas are littered with the usual options: Jollibee, Chowking, McDonald’s, KFC, etc., promising office workers and passers-by a filling yet affordable meal. Their meals are often around PHP 50, good enough for a limited budget, and even PHP 150 can be stretched to share meals with groups, like KFC’s Fully Loaded Meal, McDonald’s BFF bundle or a bucket of Chicken Joy. Whatever budget you’re working with, you’ll definitely be able to have a complete meal with a viand, some rice, and a soft drink.

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But cheap prices alone can’t sustain your regulars or draw in new customers. There are far too many instances of certain branches serving way too thin pieces of chicken, or sandwich orders scrimping on the additional ingredients. Thus, local fast food franchises no longer promote their products as merely value for money deals. Whether you’re a high-end foodie or a fast food fiend, distinct and well-prepared food is what brings you back to a place regardless of its market and specialty. KFC went beyond serving its usual fried chicken by adding a new flavor twist in its Spanish Salpicao, Japanese Teriyaki, and Spicy Gangnam Chicken. The last item made waves with its spicy sauce and extra crispy exterior. Plus you got a ridiculously “sulit” deal at PHP 99 for tasty chicken and a cup of plain or special rice.

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KFC wasn’t the only company to up its game. Jollibee, the undisputed number one fast food franchise in the country, owes it success to knowing its market. Although other restaurants and fast food joints serve what you’d find back in the US, Jollibee developed and consistently delivers in offering food that’s adjusted to the Filipino palate. The most straightforward example of its success is the sweet spaghetti and palabok.

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With Jollibee Foods Corporation covering almost all aspects of local fast food—Mang Inasal, Greenwich, Red Ribbon, and Burger King—competitors need to keep their presence relevant to the diverse eating market. For the longest time, Wendy’s stayed under the radar as Jollibee, Burger King, and McDonald’s continued offering variations to their regular burgers, and both small and large businesses like Burger Bar and Burger Project serve tastier and heftier alternatives to fast food fare. But in 2013, Wendy’s underwent a major rebrand  that included its logo, packaging design, uniforms, menu variety, and food preparation. Wendy’s needed a new product that would catch the eating crowd’s constantly changing attention span—thus the introduction of the Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger. This new burger reminded people why they embraced Wendy’s back then: the thick patties, generous bacon strips, and melted cheddar cheese that indulged you with each large bite.

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This year, the local fast food industry will be up against more American imports. Pink’s Hotdogs and The Halal Guys are among this year’s anticipated restaurant openings. Both establishments started off as humble food stalls before achieving decades-long success with Pink’s signature hotdogs and burgers, and The Halal Guys’ chicken or lamb with yellow basmati rice. Both brands stand a large chance with the Philippine market for several reasons. The local dining scene has introduced all kinds of cuisine, and thus has widened the preference and tastes of the market. Pink’s will add to the diversity of burgers and provide an alternative to how the Filipino has its hotdog sandwich. The Halal Guys will make Middle-Eastern food approachable and reachable. These imports will also cater to the Filipino market that has lived and worked abroad.

In Metro Manila, fast food is no longer just about having a quick and easy eating solution. The cheap prices definitely save the wallet, but the discerning Filipino diner can now have a wide variety to choose from, when it comes to what he or she craves for. It’s definitely an exciting time for dining out, even when it comes to the straightforward simplicity of fast food.

What are your thoughts on the Metro Manila fast food scene? What restaurants are you looking forward to or wish would arrive in the city? Let us know in the comments section below!

Gela Velasco Gela Velasco

Gela is a young adult slowly settling into her late twenties. She likes to make a mess in the kitchen when no one’s looking, dance till dawn on long weekends, and dream about beef on lazy afternoons. On some days she learns how to write good in graduate school. Her life goals include sashaying somewhat like Beyonce and to write a cover story on Leonardo di Caprio.

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