YCO Corp. has decided not to renew its franchise agreement with Jollibee Foods Corp. and will close the last Jollibee store in the Marianas next month.
The company’s general manager, Ralph Yumul, said the island’s unstable economic climate forced the family-owned business to end its relationship with the Philippines’ largest food company.
“This past year we just saw the [sales] trend going down. Initially, we were juggling with the decision whether to renew the franchise or not and go for another year, knowing some months will incur losses,” he said. “We wanted to continue operating Jollibee in hopes of a rebound in the economy, but after witnessing the world economy collapse, the high cost of doing business, coupled with the closure of all garment companies and some local establishment on Saipan, the family decided to cut its losses and conserve the resources we have for the near future.”
Yumul said the company’s decision to close Jollibee Garapan took a lot of factors into consideration.
“We reviewed the sales this past year. The indicators and reports of increased costs of doing business here in the CNMI, uncertainty in the economy both locally and federally, and the repatriation of guest workers in the CNMI is now on the rise, and is no longer viable to operate [Jollibee],” he said.
August 2009 would’ve marked the 10-year anniversary of YCO’s franchise agreement with Jollibee Philippines.
“We’re not really making money anymore. We’ve been struggling about the decision to close it since January 2008. However, due to our desire to prove a gathering place for the Filipinos, especially the kids, we decided to continue the operations. Last November, we finally decided to shut down in February. We didn’t announce it immediately because we didn’t want to lower the morale of our employees.”
Yumul added that the rise of cheaper dining alternatives on Saipan also affected the local Jollibee store’s sales.
The fastfood chain used to have three outlets in the Marianas—two on Saipan and one in Guam. Guam closed a couple years ago, while Jollibee Chalan Kanoa shut down in July 2004.
Yumul said he is sad to see Jollibee buzz away toward the sunset.
“We had a good franchise. YCO Corp. prides itself in our business relationships. If we agree on a venture we will hold our end of the deal and not drop it in the middle of the game. We’ve been involved with it for so long and it’s hard to let go but this business cycle has come full circle,” he said.
Asked what YCO Corp. plans for the site soon to be orphaned by Jollibee, Yumul only said, “As for the future, we will leave our options open.”