13 Things You Didn't Know About Panda Express Slideshow

We can probably safely assume that throughout the course of your life, you haven't given Panda Express much in the way of thought. You've probably seen it at the mall food court, maybe occasionally sampled some of its orange chicken, but it probably hasn't made a noticeable impact on your life. Yes, it's just a chain that sells Chinese-American fast food, but it's also a lot more interesting than you realize.

Panda Inn Is Still Going Strong

The restaurant that started it all currently has three locations (in Pasadena, La Palma, and Ontario, California) and a fourth one will be opening soon in Glendale.

UCLA Football Coach Terry Donahue Was Instrumental in Its Founding

Believe it or not, legendary UCLA football coach Terry Donahue was the catalyst behind the opening of the first location. He and his brother, a real estate agent named Dan, were friends with Andrew Cherng, and when Dan heard that the mall was accepting applications for restaurants to open in its food court, he passed along the news to Andrew.

It’s Had the Same Owners Since Day One

Andrew and Peggy Cherng, who are now in their late 60s, still retain full ownership of the company, and two of their daughters, Andrea and Nicole, work at the company's Glendale corporate headquarters in marketing and catering management, respectively.

Contrary to Popular Belief, There’s No MSG in Its Food

Panda Express' suppliers aren't permitted to add MSG to their ingredients, and no MSG is added to any of its food during preparation.

Nowadays, Only Two Percent of Locations Are in Shopping Malls

Even though the chain got its start in shopping malls, today the vast majority of its locations are in other food courts (like on college campuses) or are stand-alone restaurants.

It Was an Early Adopter of Computerization and Systems Analysis Among Chain Restaurants

Before joining the business, Peggy Cherng spent several years as a software designer and engineer for defense contractors, so she was able to put her knowledge of computers and systems analysis to good use at Panda Express. The company's operations were computerized from the very beginning, and her custom operating system allowed the company to scale its operations.

There’s a Good Reason Why the Background Music Is So Benign

If you visit a standalone Panda Express, you probably won't even notice the music unless you're specifically listening for it. That's because it's managed by Trusonic, a commercial background music provider. You might be familiar with another company that was recently acquired by Trusonic's parent company: Muzak. Boston Market and Au Bon Pain also use the same background music service.

Employees Are Encouraged to Attend Personal Development Workshops

The Cherngs encourage Panda Express employees to attend self-help workshops.

It’s Trying to Make Japanese Locations Work

There are no Panda Express locations in China, and an attempt to franchise eight Japanese stores in 2001 only lasted for about nine years. They've recently partnered with Japanese ramen chain Ippudo to open several new Japanese locations, however; the first one opened in Kawasaki last year.

There’s an Experimental Test Kitchen in Pasadena Called Innovation Kitchen

The restaurant is "a platform for experimenting with new flavors and dishes, as well as elements of service, design and décor," according to the company, and the menu includes customizable wraps, salads, and rice and noodle bowls.

The Highest-Grossing Location Is in a Honolulu Food Court

The Panda Express that's located inside the Ala Moana Shopping Center in Honolulu brings in more than $4 million annually.

Orange Chicken Is the Most Popular Menu Item

The dish was developed by chef Andy Kao and introduced in 1987, and 80 million pounds of it was served in 2016.

Some Locations Offer a ‘Tea Bar’

Panda Tea Bar specializes in different types of whole-leaf tea (including hot tea, milk tea, bubble tea, fruit tea, and lemonade tea), fresh-squeezed juices, smoothies, and shakes.