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Panda Express: The Best Chinese-American Fast Food Chain

Nov 24, 2023
panda express

Panda Express is a Chinese-inspired fast-food restaurant that offers a selection of delicious dishes. It definitely made a name for itself in the industry. The quick service meets the needs of those with a hectic lifestyle. And the menu guarantees customers can get a delectable meal without having to sacrifice their busy schedules. Though, a lot of Americans argue their food isn’t exactly “Chinese.” But was that ever the owners’ goal? Let’s find out.

Panda Inn

It wasn’t always called Panda Express. In 1973, when Chinese immigrant Andrew Cherng and his father Ming-Tsai Cherng first opened it in Pasadena, California, it was first called Panda Inn. At the time, it was still a sit-down restaurant. And eventually, with its popularity, they opened four more branches in South California. Now, Panda Express is the biggest family-run Asian cuisine chain in the United States. It has more than 2,300 stores, 47,000 personnel, and annual sales of $3 billion.

No Franchising?

It’s hard to imagine that despite being the most popular Chinese fast-food restaurant chain in the United States, Panda Express is still family-owned. Andrew Cherng and his wife, Peggy Cherng continue to be the sole proprietors of their private enterprise, The Panda Restaurant Group. They don’t allow franchising, and have full ownership and control of all Panda Express eateries except for the ones in universities, which get a license from the university.

The Menu Extravaganza

Panda Express features a variety of dishes that will please all palates, combining the flavors of classic Chinese cuisine with a quick-service approach. One of the signature dishes on the menu is the renowned Orange Chicken. This delightful combination of crunchy, battered chicken and a sweet and tart glaze is sure to please. If you’re looking for something with a bit of a kick, the Beijing Beef offers a delicate blend of beef and a savory, mildly spicy sauce. Vegetarians can enjoy the Vegetable Spring Rolls, a delightful mix of vegetables cooked in a golden-brown, crunchy coating. Every item on the menu is a testament to the creativity of the brand. With options for both meat-eaters and vegetarians, there is sure to be something that everyone can enjoy. 

Is it really Chinese Food?

It is easy to understand that the target customers of the fast food chain are Americans, considering the start of their restaurant journey. However, not all Americans enjoy Asian or Chinese food. The question of whether Panda Express is “Chinese food” isn’t at all complicated. The restaurant takes cues from the Chinese kitchen but tweaks the flavors to appeal to American taste buds. This creates a unique combination that is both authentic and convenient, like fast food. The use of fresh, high-quality ingredients adds to the genuine nature of the dishes. Basic vegetables such as broccoli, green beans, and mushrooms are often used, forming a pleasing mix of familiar and unfamiliar flavors. But that’s what makes Panda Express so unique and special.

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