Panda Express storefront sign
The Adorable Name Panda Express First Had
By Nico Danilovich
"Panda Express" is already a fairly cute name, as furry black and white bears that laze around and chomp down on bamboo are inherently charming. However, the chain once had an even more adorable name, and as it turns out, Panda Express is a spinoff brand.
Panda Express founder Andrew Cherng immigrated to California in 1966, later using loans to open a restaurant with his master-chef father, Ming-Tsai Cherng. That establishment's name was Panda Inn, a precursor to Panda Express, serving Chinese food to local Chinese immigrants and others in the area.
One of their customers, a real estate developer, offered the Cherngs an opportunity to open a quick-service version of Panda Inn at a nearby mall, and Andrew jumped at the chance, opening the aptly named Panda Express. The original Panda Inn is still open, and the same Cherng-led company, Panda Restaurant Group, owns both restaurants.