Panda Express: Orange Chicken Heaven!

Last Updated on April 2, 2019

Panda Express opened its first restaurant in Glendale, California, in 1983. Since then, it has brought folks together for great meals and good times. Today, Panda Express has 2,105 restaurant locations in the United States.

Panda Express Store Map

In 1973, Chinese immigrant, Andrew Cherng, his fiancée, Peggy Cherng and his father, Master Chef Ming-Tsai Cherng, founded the Panda Inn in Glendale, California. The restaurant quickly grew in popularity and the family soon opened four more locations in Southern California. Andrew and Peggy married in 1975.

In 1983, they opened a fast-food version of the Panda Inn and called it Panda Express. The first Panda Express was located at the Glendale Galleria in Glendale, California.

Panda Express is the biggest Asian segment fast food restaurant chain in the United States.

Andrew and Peggy Cherng still own and run their privately-held company, The Panda Restaurant Group. The company owns and operates all the Panda Express stores, with the exception of those located inside universities, which are typically licensed to the university. There are no Panda Express franchises.

Andrew and Peggy’s love story began when they met at Baker University in Kansas. They later got advanced degrees at
the University of Missouri in the 1970’s, Andrew in Applied Mathematics and Peggy in Electrical Engineering. They married in 1975 and 10 years later opened their first Panda Express location.

Panda Express sells nearly
70 million pounds of orange chicken a year.

Orange Chicken, the most popular dish on the menu!
Last year, Panda Express customers bought 67.9 million pounds of the sweet and tangy orange chicken. The orange chicken recipe is a family secret, however, we know that each batch begins with frozen, breaded, boneless chicken nuggets that are deep fried and then dipped in the orange sauce.

In the 1980’s, the company adopted computers to collect data about the highest selling menu items in each store. The computers also made ordering in stores easier and faster. These technological advancements were possible thanks to Peggy’s background in engineering and software design.

Panda Innovation Kitchen

In 2017, they opened Panda Innovation Kitchen in Pasadena. Their daughter, Andrea Cherng, the company’s chief marketing officer, oversees a majority of the restaurant’s business. The Panda Innovation Kitchen develops new and exciting menu items, as well as restaurant designs and decor. 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.

Andrew and Peggy care about the health and well-being of their employees. Panda Restaurant Group’s headquarters has motivational posters on the walls and Stephen Covey books on the desks. Workers are given discounts on self-help and leadership books. They are strongly encouraged to enroll in courses such as Dale Carnegie, Life Academy and Landmark Education. Andrew hosts Zumba programs, self-defense workshops and motivational speeches for his employees. He also created a mandatory program for employees called The Panda Way, which requires employees to have a healthy lifestyle, continuous learning, and good interpersonal relationship skills.

Panda Express menu offerings have no MSG added, either at Panda Express locations or by ingredient suppliers.

Through a variety of programs, Panda Express has given almost $50 million to children’s hospitals and disaster relief efforts.

Gloria Sauvé
Communications and Marketing

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