Food blog

The Sweet Love Story That Built Panda Express

The sweet love story behind Panda Express

Panda Express is undoubtedly one of the most popular Chinese food chains in America, known for its delicious Orange Chicken, Chow Mein and Broccoli Beef. But what many people may not know is that behind this fast-food giant is a heartwarming love story and a family-owned business. In fact, the founders of Panda Express are none other than a husband and wife team who have built an empire on their passion and dedication.

A college love story

The story begins in the 1980s when Andrew and Peggy Cherng, co-founders of Panda Express, met as young college students at Baker University. Andrew, originally from China, had come to the United States to study mathematics, while Peggy, born in Burma, was pursuing a Ph.D. in electrical engineering. Despite their different backgrounds, the two fell in love and decided to continue their higher education journey together at the University of Missouri.

A Restaurant Legacy

While Andrew’s career path may have seemed unexpected, it was deeply rooted in his upbringing. As a child, Andrew spent his summers in New York working as a waiter in Chinese restaurants. His father was a chef, so Andrew was no stranger to the restaurant industry. In 1973, Andrew and his father opened a sit-down Chinese restaurant in California called the Panda Inn. This was the beginning of their culinary venture.
In 1982, Andrew and Peggy took a bold step and opened the first Panda Express, a fast-food concept that offered customers a convenient and delicious experience. It was a significant departure from the traditional sit-down restaurant model. Little did they know that their decision would shape the future of Chinese fast food in America.

A technological revolution

One of the key factors in Panda Express’ success was Peggy’s background in engineering. She introduced technology to streamline operations and revolutionize the way the chain managed its inventory, ordering and overall operations. In fact, Panda Express was the first Chinese restaurant in America to make such technological advances. This innovative approach allowed the chain to grow quickly and efficiently, establishing itself as a leader in the American Chinese food industry.

A family-owned empire

Despite its tremendous success and expansion, Panda Express has remained a family-run business at its core. Andrew and Peggy have chosen to operate most of the chain’s locations themselves, rather than relying heavily on franchising. Their hands-on approach ensures that the quality and authenticity of the food is maintained at all restaurants.
The second generation of the Cherng family has also taken an active role in managing the Panda Express empire. Andrew and Peggy’s daughters, Andrea and Nicole, have taken on positions in marketing and catering, contributing to the brand’s continued growth and success. This commitment to keeping Panda Express in the family demonstrates the deep-rooted values and dedication that have been passed down through generations.

A global phenomenon

Today, Panda Express is a global phenomenon with more than 2,200 locations in the United States, South Korea and several other countries. The chain generates an impressive $3.5 billion in sales each year, a testament to its popularity and the consistent quality of its offerings.
The sweet love story behind Panda Express is a reminder that success can come from passion, hard work and a shared vision. Andrew and Peggy Cherng’s journey from college sweethearts to building a thriving business demonstrates the power of love, dedication, and the pursuit of excellence. As we enjoy our favorite Panda Express dishes, let’s appreciate the remarkable story behind this beloved Chinese food chain.


Panda Express was founded by Andrew and Peggy Cherng, a husband and wife team who met as college students and decided to build a family-owned Chinese food empire together.

How did Andrew and Peggy Cherng start Panda Express?

Andrew Cherng, who had experience working in Chinese restaurants, opened a sit-down Chinese restaurant called Panda Inn in California in 1973. Later, in 1982, Andrew and Peggy opened the first Panda Express location, introducing a fast-food concept that revolutionized the American Chinese food industry.

What was Peggy’s role in the success of Panda Express?

With a background in engineering, Peggy Cherng introduced technology to streamline operations at Panda Express. She implemented innovative systems for inventory management, stock ordering, and overall operational efficiency, making Panda Express the first Chinese restaurant in America to implement such advancements.

Is Panda Express still a family-owned business?

Yes, Panda Express is still a family-run business. Andrew and Peggy Cherng, along with their daughters Andrea and Nicole, actively manage the chain’s operations. They prefer to operate most of the locations themselves rather than rely heavily on franchising to ensure consistent quality and authenticity across all restaurants.

How many restaurants does Panda Express have?

Panda Express has more than 2,200 locations in the United States, with a presence in South Korea and several other countries. The chain’s widespread success has made it a global phenomenon in the American Chinese food industry.

How much revenue does Panda Express generate?

Panda Express generates an impressive $3.5 billion in sales each year, underscoring its immense popularity and the consistent demand for its delicious offerings.

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