Andrew Cherng, the co-CEO of Panda Restaurant Group, came to the U.S. in 1966, speaking no English. After just seven years, he and his father Master Chef Ming-Tsai, opened their first restaurant in Pasadena, California. His wife Peggy joined the business just two years later. Today, the business is celebrating its 40th anniversary and Andrew and Peggy own one of the most successful restaurant chains in the U.S. The business has grown exponentially, thanks to the Cherngs’ work ethic, and advice and financial support from Bank of America.
Panda Express is a fast casual restaurant chain with 1,600 locations and 23,000 employees. Last year the business, one of the largest privately held retailers in the U.S., generated over $1.8 billion in annual sales. The Cherng’s connection with Bank of America goes back twenty years, to 1993, when they started a depository relationship with the bank.
Andrew and Peggy met in college as immigrants to the United States in pursuit of higher education. Today, the husband-and-wife entrepreneurs share the CEO title. He’s the visionary; she oversees the day-to-day. Andrew is not the typical buttoned-up CEO. He is an enthusiastic fan of self-development; his personal and professional mission is embedded in the company’s unique culture. He encourages self-improvement through continuous learning, team building, even yoga and exercise at work—resulting in loyal employees and extraordinarily low turnover.
Since the beginning of the relationship with Panda Express, Bank of America has helped fund their massive growth, from just 100 stores when the relationship started to nearly 1,600 today. The bank has worked closely with Panda Express over the years to provide an array of advisory and strategic services, including working capital and growth finance, cash management and depository services. “Bank of America has been an incredible asset to Panda’s growth, which fuels our mission to deliver exceptional Asian dining experiences by building an organization where people are inspired to better their lives,” said Peggy Cherng
The bank’s team also offers strategic help on expanding the business. Their Bank of America Client Manager Katie Carano, says, “Over the past twenty years, we have partnered with Panda and provided our advice and support to help them achieve their long-term growth plan. They have a leadership team that is actively shaping the company’s culture around specific values. We work closely with the Panda team in every aspect of their business, and are fortunate to be a part of a culture that is so committed to their associates’ personal and professional development.”
The company has a significant impact on the community, by buying 99% of their locations, hiring new workers, and supporting local charities and nonprofits. Their community outreach program, Panda Cares, has raised more than $22 million for charities in the U.S. and abroad, serving the health and education needs of underserved children.
Panda Express has bold growth plans. They are on track to open over 100 stores a year in the U.S. and globally, with the goal of 2300 stores by 2015. They are remodeling many of their older restaurants featuring bold color accents, natural materials, and integrated landscaping. But Cherng is not about growth at any cost. He is fervently dedicated to making his employees’ lives better even as he grows the business. Says Cherng, “Business is where you practice your human skills. I challenge my staff: ‘aim higher, grow personally.’ That’s how you go forward.”