Glendale, California, U.S.
Number of locations
|United States (also Puerto Rico & Guam) Mexico, Canada, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, Japan, Guatemala, El Salvador, Aruba, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Philippines|
|Products||American Chinese cuisine|
|Revenue||$3 billion (2017)[failed verification]|
Number of employees
|39,000 (2018)[failed verification]|
|Parent||Panda Restaurant Group|
Panda Express is a fast food restaurant chain which serves American Chinese cuisine. With over 2,200 locations, it is the largest Asian segment restaurant chain in the United States, where it was founded and is mainly located (in addition to other countries and territories in North America and Asia). Panda Express restaurants were traditionally located in shopping mall food courts, but the chain now operates units in many other environments and formats, including stand-alone restaurants, as well as universities, casinos, airports, military bases, amusement parks and other venues.
The chain offers a variety of Chinese-cuisine-inspired dishes (e.g., Orange Chicken; Sweet Fire Chicken Breast; Beijing Beef; Grilled Teriyaki Chicken; Kung Pao Chicken), with certain premium dishes such as Honey Walnut shrimp and Shanghai Angus steak having additional costs for the patron. "Combo meals" are served with customer's choice of either fried rice, steamed rice, chow mein, or super greens. No MSG is added to any of the items at Panda Express after it has been delivered to the restaurant, nor does Panda Express purchase from any suppliers who add MSG.
The Panda Restaurant Group, parent company of Panda Inn, Panda Express, and Hibachi-San, was founded by Andrew Cherng, Peggy Cherng and Andrew's father, Master Chef Ming Tsai Cherng. Andrew Cherng and his father are from the Yangzhou region of China's Jiangsu province, while Peggy was born in Burma and raised in Hong Kong. Both Andrew and Peggy Cherng are alumni of Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas (where they first met).
Andrew went into business with his father in the United States in 1973, opening their first Panda Inn restaurant in Pasadena, California. At the beginning, business was lacking to the degree that Andrew had to offer special deals and freebies so that customers would dine at Panda Inn. In 1982, Peggy joined Andrew in the restaurant business. While operating Panda Inn, Andrew became acquainted with then-UCLA head football coach Terry Donahue, as well as Terry's brother Dan, who happened to be in the real estate business. It was because of this connection that in 1983, Donahue Schriber Real Estate, the manager of the Glendale Galleria, invited the Cherngs to develop a fast-food version of Panda Inn for the Galleria's food court, and Panda Express was launched that October. A second location was opened two years later at the Westside Pavilion in 1985. The chain has steadily expanded across the United States since then. Chef Andy Kao claims to have developed the original Chinese-American orange chicken recipe at a Panda Express in Hawaii in 1987.
At first, Panda Express restaurants were found solely in food courts in major shopping malls. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Cherngs began experimenting with supermarket-based branches, through a deal with Vons, and then stand-alone restaurant locations. In 1997, the company opened its first stand-alone, drive-through restaurant, in Hesperia, California. Today less than 2% of its restaurants are in malls.
Because Peggy had worked for several years as a software designer and engineer for defense contractors like McDonnell Douglas, Panda Express computerized its operations early on. Peggy also brought a systems analysis perspective to the business and worked through the logistics and standardization issues necessary to scale up the concept.
In 2005, Panda Express began to open units in food courts on college campus, some of which participate in the residential student meal plans. In 2008, the Cherngs were the recipients of the City of Angels Award, given by the LAX Coastal Area Chamber of Commerce, for their contributions to the greater Los Angeles area. As of 2007, the company's highest revenue location, bringing in over US$4 million annually, was located at the Ala Moana Center food court in Honolulu, Hawaii. On November 23, 2009, it was announced that Panda Express had selected Trusonic to provide Asian themed background music to its store locations.
On the ABC News TV program Nightline, April 18, 2011, there was a feature segment on Panda Express and its success. The segment described how Andrew Cherng encourages his workers and management to go through self-help programs emphasizing Landmark Education.
In June 2013, it was announced that the restaurant chain will pay $150,000 to settle an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission action on behalf of at least three female teenagers who were allegedly sexually harassed between 2007 and 2009 by one male kitchen supervisor in Kauai, Hawaii.
Later that year, Panda Express opened its first location in the western Pacific by opening a location in the American territory of Guam. The first location in the state of Alaska was later opened in December 2015.
As of 2017, the Panda Restaurant Group had annual sales of over $3 billion and close to 39,000 employees. They also opened Panda Innovation Kitchen in Pasadena with their daughter, Andrea Cherng, overlooking a majority of the restaurant's business. The idea for Panda Innovation Kitchen is to experiment with new flavours and ingredients to come up with new menu items. In addition, they also opened a tea bar to introduce Taiwanese drinks such as boba milk tea and new drinks like the Fortune Cookie Shake.
Panda Express also operates in Canada, Guatemala, Japan, Mexico, El Salvador, Philippines, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates. The first location in Mexico opened in Mexico City in September 2011.
In October 2013, the first Panda Express located in Canada opened its doors on Hunt Club Road in Nepean, Ontario but has since closed. The first location in Calgary was opened in October 2016.
The first location in South Korea was opened in Seoul in September 2014 as a joint venture with Seoul-based SF Innovation Co.
On May 26, 2014, it was reported by Arabian Business news that Panda Express would be opening a restaurant in the United Arab Emirates. The first Panda Express restaurant in the Middle East was open in Dubai in November 2014.
Although no reliable source can be located when and where Panda Express had opened its first restaurant in Saudi Arabia, there is reliable information that the second Panda Express in Saudi Arabia was opened in the capital city of Riyadh in January 2018. Both Saudi Arabian restaurants are operated by Gourmet Gulf.
In September 2018, Panda Express announced its joint venture with Jollibee Foods Corporation to bring its stores in the Philippines. The first Panda Express restaurant in the Philippines opened in December 2019 at the SM Megamall in Mandaluyong as joint venture with Jollibee.
Panda Express previously had eight locations in Japan that were operated under a franchise agreement that later lapsed. In November 2016, the company returned to the country by opening a new location in Kawasaki. This new location is operated as part of a joint partnership with Ippudo. As of June 2019, there are four locations in the nation.
In 2000, Panda Express launched Panda Cares to give back to the community. They provide funding, food and volunteer services to children in need and disaster relief efforts. The company installed donation boxes in all the Panda Express restaurants in 2010. The charity has raised $107 million, with $89 million coming from in-store donation boxes, and $41 million has been donated to "The Leader In Me", a program to teach leadership and life skills that has been rolled out to 865 elementary schools in 39 states. The organization has also donated $37 million to Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, to support medical costs for poor children, and also supports disaster relief efforts.
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