Food Tech Stories: How These Guys Built A Multi-Billion Dollar Family Business | Hacker Noon

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Who doesn’t know Panda Express? It is a fast-food restaurant chain that offers American Chinese cuisine. With over 2,200 locations, it is a forward-runner in the Asian restaurant chain niche. The idea of Panda Express was born in the United States. First restaurants used to be located in shopping mall food courts, but the chain has been expanded since then. You can see Panda Express in universities, airports, military bases, amusement parks, and other places.

The first thing that comes to your mind when you hear ‘Panda Express’ are its signature dishes – Kung Pao chicken, orange chicken, chow mein, and steamed vegetables.

Now being a hotspot, the restaurant was slowly building its popularity over the years. Here is the timeline that shows how it all started.

The story begins with its co-founder Andrew Cherng receiving a scholarship and moving to Kansas. This is the place where he met his future wife and business partner, Peggy. The newlyweds opened Panda Inn on Foothill Boulevard in Pasadena in 1973. It was a cozy, small family-owned restaurant that was known for its hospitality, but big things start small. In 1983, after Panda Inn got off the ground, Andrew opened the first Panda Express in Glendale Galleria. His wife Peggy that was working as a computer programmer at the time, decided to take over the accounting and pay sheets for Panda Express.

Her technical abilities allowed her to initiate Panda Express’s development by following buying history and moves in client conduct with the help of pattern-recognition programming. Since the kitchen is itself leaves no place for high tech, the management system is what allows catching the information and analyzing it. Thus, it is a perfect combo of her husband’s charisma and visionary abilities and her management skills.

Also, in 1987 Panda Express’s signature dish – The Original Orange Chicken entrée – was developed by Andy Kao. The crispy chicken still remains a bestseller with more than 80 mln pounds sold.

However, despite the high technical side of the business, Andrew and Peggy put people at the forefront of their success. The restaurant business is about people. If we want to gain popularity among clients, you have to treat your business with passion and service adding ambiance and pride. If that ratio works, then guests will love what you are doing.

This attitude echoes the human resource side as well. Panda Express is well known for its positive treatment of its staff. And these are not just plain words. If you want to apply for a starting entry-level position, you’ll be paid $9.50/ per hour about $14 an hour for assistant managers. Benefits for employees include health care, paid illness leave, paid vacation, and college courses after 6 months.

As it’s a family business, Andrew and Peggy’s eldest daughter – Andrea – continues the family business. Andrea studied at Duke and got an M.B.A in Business. Andrea acquired experience elsewhere before she took on a position at the Panda Restaurant Group.

Today, Andrea works at the Panda Express Innovation Kitchen in Pasadena. She tries out new recipes and is in charge of restaurant decor.

Read the whole story here: How Two Chinese Immigrants Built a Billion-Dollar Fast-Food Empire More Successful Than In-N-Out

Created by Tatsiana Isakova

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