The Truth About Eating At Panda Express

The Truth About Eating At Panda Express


There’s a Chinese adage that says, “Food is
the first necessity of the people.” Anyone exhausted after a long day knows it’s
true, and sometimes, some broccoli beef from Panda Express just hits the spot. Here’s everything you should know before the
next time you go. Once upon a time in Kansas, two Baker University
students met and they fell madly in love. Born of this love was some of the yummiest
Chinese food you’ll ever eat, and we all lived happily ever after stuffing our faces with
broccoli beef and orange chicken. It sounds like a fairy tale, but it’s absolutely
true. Panda Express is a true American success story,
as co-CEOs Andrew and Peggy Cherng both came to America as immigrants in the mid-1960s. Even though Andrew got his degree in mathematics
and Peggy got hers in electrical engineering, they ended up in the restaurant business. It all started in 1973, when Andrew and his
father opened the Panda Inn in Pasadena, running it together with the entire family on staff. Fast forward more than four decades, and the
Cherng family has more than 2,000 Panda Express restaurants in North America, as well as locations
in Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Guatemala, and Aruba. And just because Panda Express is a mega-success
doesn’t mean the Cherngs have forgotten their roots. Their daughter Andrea is the company’s chief
marketing officer, and they own and operate every restaurant they don’t franchise them
out to others, save for a few select locations. At Panda Express, it truly is a family business. Panda Express co-founder Peggy Cherng holds
degrees in applied mathematics, computer science, and electrical engineering, so when the restaurants
first opened she was instrumental in implementing a system of portable computers to process
orders in every location. Of course, most restaurants you frequent today
have computerized systems for taking orders and managing data, but Panda Express was one
of the first restaurants to do so. While her husband was busy adding locations
to their growing empire, Peggy Cherng was developing ways to keep track of everything
from how well things were selling to streamlining the ordering process. Around 1983, she introduced the idea of the
point of sale system. She told the Los Angeles Times, “I think we were one of the first to use POS. It was confusing at the beginning, especially
when everyone got nervous and pressed the wrong buttons. But it made everything more efficient.” All that number-crunching gave Panda Express
a huge edge, particularly because it allowed them to figure out pretty precisely just how
much of each ingredient they needed to order, which minimized spoilage while still helping
guarantee a fresh product. It also set a precedent for other restaurants
to follow and today, Peggy Cherng is one of the richest, self-made, foreign-born businesswomen
in America. One of the criticisms you’ll see lobbied against
Panda Express is the question of its authenticity. Is it Chinese food? Is it American food? “Something stereotypical so I can get it quick….” Okay I like your food.” “Outback Steakhouse! I’m Australian, mate!” Technically, it’s both. It was founded by Chinese immigrants who adapted
Chinese food for the American palate, and for a lot of Americans, it’s been their first
introduction to Chinese cuisine. Chief marketing officer Andrea Cherng put
it this way: “In the beginning, everything was already
being translated by master chef Ming-Tsai Cherng. And the way that he cooked always had that
Chinese heritage.” Panda Express’s culinary director Jimmy Wang
told Restaurant Drive, “American Chinese cuisine is very authentic
to Panda Express. Our ever-evolving style of food was born from
adapting traditional Chinese recipes, flavors and cooking techniques to American ingredients
and tastes.” And at the very heart of the matter is something
that’s about as authentic as you can get. It’s an authentic story, and as Andrea Cherng
told Business Insider, Panda Express is “…a story of immigrant Chinese chefs and
families coming to the US, for what they hope will be a better life. It’s a story of taking the recipes and the
repertoire of their own culinary skill set and making it appeal to an [American] national
palate.” “if there’s an opportunity to more, to
gain more, to get more I was up to it.” Any Panda Express fanatic knows how good the
chain’s orange chicken is, and it should be it’s been on the menu since 1987. When it was first introduced by former executive
chef Andy Kao, though, it was served bone-in, rather than the classic boneless dish you
find at any Panda Express today. And you will find a lot of it, because the
chain sells millions of pounds each year. The dish turned 30 years old in 2017, and
that year, they sold a whopping 80 million pounds of the stuff. It’s so popular that more than 50 percent
of Panda Express diners select orange chicken as part of their meal. “There’s nothing tastier than Panda Express
Orange Chicken!” Panda Express orange chicken is everything
delicious in one tasty meal boneless fried chicken tossed in a sauce that’s just a little
bit spicy due to the dried chilis, but sweet thanks to orange peel, honey, and ginger. The orange chicken recipe has remained pretty
consistent over the years, except a tweak that was made by adding bacon that left many
fans pretty upset. They also offered orange chicken and waffles
on their food truck to celebrate the famous dish. That sounds like a meal out of an orange chicken
dream. Panda Express hands out 282 million fortune
cookies every year, and that works out to around a million dollars’ worth every month. But they aren’t always just your standard
fortune cookies. “You’re going to be eaten by a big greasy
monster. Have a nice day.” No, it’s not that either… quite the opposite… For a 2016 campaign, the restaurant renamed
the classic treat Fortunate Cookies and included FortuNotes inside, white slips that expressed
gratitude and kindness, rather than the typical proverb or prophecy. Andrea Cherng told Fox News, “The goal is that [customers] will pause and
stop and acknowledge the people in their lives that they feel most fortunate for. […] The habit of pausing and saying to someone
that you matter that’s the richness, that’s the fortune of life.” Some of the fortunes read, “You will help
someone in need this week,” “Your kind attitude will keep others afloat,” and “You are exactly
where you’re supposed to be.” To the restaurant’s guests, those nice messages
probably made those cookies taste all the sweeter. For the first time in the chain’s history,
Panda Express added vegan items to its menu in 2019. The new plant-based items include spring rolls,
eggplant tofu, chow mein, and Super Greens mixed veggies. Until this menu change, Panda Express flavored
its dishes with chicken broth and other animal product seasonings. According to PETA, this change is thanks to
their supporters. They claimed: “When Panda Express told PETA that its vegetable-based
dishes were still prepared with meat-based flavoring, we urged the company to get with
the times and offer vegan options in its 2,000 stores across the globe. When it continued to give us excuses, we sent
out an alert, and our supporters wrote the company over 234,000 times demanding change.” But one issue that strict vegans may have
with these new dishes is that although they don’t contain meat or animal by-products,
Panda Express notes that they are still prepared in the same kitchen as the meat items, using
the same space and cooking equipment. Some vegetarians discussing the cross-contamination
issue on Reddit have a problem with the idea of their food being cooked in the same pans
that have prepared meat, while others don’t. Nonetheless, the company has been transparent
about the issue, so that diners can make up their own mind based on their dietary preferences
and any allergies they may have. If a restaurant is worried about competition
in the food court at a shopping mall, they could always do what the Cherngs did: start
their own competing restaurant. According to Fortune, Andrew Cherng said, “We started Hibachi-San in malls in 1992 as
a defensive strategy to keep Japanese restaurants from selling against our Chinese food at Panda
Express.” Hibachi-San is a Japanese fast casual restaurant,
and with the growing popularity of both Japanese cuisine and fast casual dining, it just makes
sense. Especially for the Cherngs, who knew that
starting their own Japanese chain would mean that whether a customer was deciding between
Panda Express or Hibachi-San, they’d always win. Think you have an obsession with Panda Express
orange chicken? “I want to go to there.” In 2017, The Killers’ were chowing down on
a meal from Panda Express and found the phrase “Smile Like You Mean It,” in a fortune cookie
which happened to also be the name of a song from their 2004 album Hot Fuzz. How did the band react to this? By jokingly putting Panda Express on blast
by tweeting, “I’m thinkin’ orange chicken for life and
we’ll let you off the hook for using our stuff.” The band’s claim to inventing the phrase seems
a bit iffy considering any third grader posing for school picture day probably heard the
same words uttered by the photographer, but you can’t fault The Killers for wanting to
be swimming in that yummy, sticky orange chicken. The stunt worked out for the best in the end,
with Panda Express ultimately making a financial donation to a charity of the band’s choice. Founder of Panda Express Andrew Cherng told
Los Angeles Magazine that his job is to develop people. “When you have a good set of people, and they’re
in a good place inside and out in their livelihood and in who they are then chances are they
will take care of the customer better”. Employees at Panda Express receive health
care, paid time off, 401(k)s, and company-subsidized continuing education. They also receive discounts to theme parks
and gym memberships, among other perks. The Cherngs even purchased a Robert Indiana
sculpture that sits outside their corporate headquarters and embodies the driving force
behind all they do, in one simple word: “love.” Peggy Cherng told The New York Times, “We are building a culture on trust, and the
aim of trust is love. Love is the verb we emphasize with our Panda
family. We must respect and care for each other. We must push and stretch each other.” It’s that type of corporate statement that
makes it seem like being part of the Panda family makes it a very nice place to work
and, ultimately, a nice place to visit. And that’s the end goal. Peggy Cherng told Los Angeles Magazine, “The restaurant business is the people business,
and people are our investment. If we want to be loved by guests, we have
to focus on food with passion and service with heart, ambience, and pride.” And they do invest in their employees, like
Daniel Pelagio. They hired him when he was just 18, having
recently settled in Santa Ana after moving from Mexico. Pelagio with the Cherng’s help went from speaking
no English to working his way through classes and schooling to become the regional director
for the chain’s northwest-south region. The most profitable Panda Express is located
at the Ala Moana Center food court in Honolulu, Hawaii and it brings in about $4 million a
year, more than any other Panda Express restaurant. That’s a whole lot of orange chicken! But it’s not just shopping malls where you
can find Panda Express they also have locations as stand-alone restaurants, as well as in
airports, at universities, theme parks, casinos, and military bases. With new restaurants opening worldwide, it’s
safe to say that the Cherngs have come a long way since opening their first location. According to Los Angeles Magazine, Andrew
recalled once telling his mother that he had plans to open 99 more restaurants. His mother said she remembered being flabbergasted,
telling him, “You only eat three meals a day. What do you need 100 restaurants for? He was a good child who usually did listen,
but in that instance he didn’t.” Thank goodness he followed his dreams so all
of us can enjoy orange chicken and broccoli beef all over the world. Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more Mashed videos about your favorite
restaurants are coming soon. Subscribe to our YouTube channel and hit the
bell so you don’t miss a single one.

100 Comments

  1. went there 2 days ago. worse experience ever. most bowls empty, 7 to 10 minute wait to replentish, then serve others while my order got cols. about 10 pissed off people waiting for their order. tried mushroom chicken, was mostly skin and grissel, had to throw it away, my dogs wouldn't eat it! never again, bye bye PE

  2. As a Chinese, I still prefer the real orange chicken, which is called "sweet and sour pork", with the bone-in. But when I'm really desperate and there's nothing good around, I'd still stop by Panda for some orange chicken.

  3. Panda Express is racist in their hiring of employees, just look at the company photo 500 asians, lawyers could bankrupt this company with racial discrimination hiring practice lawsuits.

  4. The first panda express spot in Pasadena on Fair oaks is too small, But always manage to find a seat.
    Plus am i the only person who gets fortune cookies from panda and doesn't have a fortune in the fortune cookie? 🤔 happened multiple time. FML

  5. As someone who worked for them, it's awful. They overwork ppl and are the type of business that change things for their workers for merely the sake of change without understanding how it truly affects the ground floor. Worse company I ever worked for.

  6. "as authentic as you can get" go to any small asian restuarant in the basement of some building in NYC and you find that quote is not very true

  7. They solicit donations way too often, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve ordered teriyaki chicken in the drive through and they forgot the teriyaki sauce. They literally make more mistakes than any “fast food” restaurant I’ve ever been to.

  8. You know Panda Express is legit cause they use Kikkoman Soy Sauce. And their Spicy Chili Sauce is like a sweeter version of Sriracha. I always put a handful in my bag and take it home. lol

  9. just wish they didn't get rid of my favorite dish from the menu. I forget what it was called because it was like forever ago when they got rid of it, but it was pork that must have marinated it some kind of sauce or something because it was a bright red color and it was absolutely delicious. I honestly loved it way more than their orange chicken.

  10. Panda Express is great when you get it made fresh. But man if you walk in and that shit been sitting there forever or when you walk in and items are empty it pisses me off.

  11. The Panda Express by my house is a happy place. The employees looks happy, and I am very happy when I get my bowl of orange chicken!

  12. The truth about Panda Express,

    It's white people's fast food.

    No real Chinese people are cooking this up in their homes.

    Just like how no real Mexicans are eating Taco Bell style tacos.

    If you like it, eat it. But don't think you like Chinese food because you eat panda Express.

    Finally, but most importantly,
    Fuck vegans!

  13. I have been to a few P/E….2 things you can count on when walking into this particular establishment are: 1) The price is very high for a small portion they serve on that plate. 2) Its workers are always Chinese, Hispanic or a combination of both. You can hate me for it, but it is a fact. Cheers.

  14. Got there (Rochester Hilss MI) at 9pm, knowing they close at 9:30pm. Much of the food appeared to be old or missing. I enquired about one of the missing menu items and was advised "sorry we aren't making any more".

    Leaving the restaurant crossed my mind but I was extremely hungry. The quantity and quality of the food has been dropping over time and now the service has dropped as well.

    A restaurant should be fully functional until it's closing time. If you stop making food at 9pm consider that your closing time not a half hour later just so you can get rid of leftovers.

  15. No it just expensive for one plate and if you want to add they'll charge you for every thing now people say here we go another cheap person no I'm not cheap because if you go to open buffet you likely pay the same amount or a little BIT more and eat and choose what ever you want and you serve your self without feeling embarrassed i just don't know why people go there any way they don't offer anything at all and what they offer you ohh take a little BIT from this and a little BIT of that and just go and on the top of all this they want to control you and make you pay for it

  16. The first time I tried panda express was in Connecticut then I had the same food I got there In Atlanta and then in Guatemala it was beautiful the teriyaki chicken

  17. the quality of the food has gone down significantly in the last 3 years. Last time I had it a few months ago the meats were disgusting and low quality.

  18. I don't see the point of Panda Express since there is a Chinese takeout place on virtually every block in America. It's all the same food anyway plus they deliver.

  19. Gonna be frank here the whole great place to work is wrong, at least at my location if you are under 18 you are second class and pressured to preform at a high level equal of a lifetime employee. I hope it’s just my location.

  20. 1. Poor service 2. Majority of the time, they are out of over half the dishes 3. small portions and overpriced 4. STOP supporting this corporate giant and support your local, mom and pop chinese takeout place.

  21. being an employee at Panda Express, if you are looking for fresh very clean produce then panda is the place for you.. trust me 🙂

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