In the ultra-competitive world of fast-food chains, Panda Restaurant Group has emerged a winner.
The Rosemead-based company — which includes Panda Express, Panda Inn and Hibachi San — has grown to the nation’s largest Asian restaurant chain with 2,167 Panda Express, four Panda Inns and 18 Habachi San eateries for a combined 2,200 restaurants.
The company has faced challenges in the form of lawsuits alleging wage and hour discrimination, workplace safety and employment discrimination, but Panda says it places a strong emphasis on programs that promote and support employees.
This is the fifth consecutive year Panda has landed in the Top Workplaces program. Employees in the survey called the work fun and challenging, noting that “everyone is treated equally and it doesn’t have to be serious all the time. It feels like a family.”
The company answered the Register’s questions via email. They have been edited for clarity and length.
Q: Why do you think your company has done so well?
A: We are so grateful for the successes we’ve had, and we believe they are due to the strong values our founders, Andrew and Peggy Cherng, have built Panda Restaurant Group on. With a company that is purpose-led and values-driven, you create a culture that fosters a sense of belonging and family. We truly are vested in the growth of our associate, both personally and professionally, and strive to help them achieve their goals.
Additionally, we have a Panda Associate Assistance Fund that allows fellow associates to aid one another in times of need. For example, when Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, Panda Express provided payroll advances along with other necessities to associates who were out of work due to the storm thanks to funds raised by our associates. This is just one of the many examples of kindness and togetherness we are fortunate enough to see at Panda every day. Our company succeeds when our people succeed.
Q: How do you stay ahead of the competition?
A: At PRG, we strive for an environment where continuous learning, a healthy lifestyle and respect for others are emphasized and acknowledged. To achieve this, we offer not only competitive benefits and compensation but also opportunities for our associates to grow. Whether employees participate in leadership and functional skill classes at University of Panda or take part in our Learning Benefit Program, which allows them up to $2,500 in college tuition assistance, we aim to provide our associates with the tools they need to achieve success.
Additionally, we believe in a “whole person” approach to health which entails physical, mental and emotional well-being and we provide associates access to competitive benefits that support all three. We are dedicated to constantly evolving our benefits program to best support our growing family of associates.
Q: What are some of the things the company does to benefit employees?
A: Aside from the competitive benefits such as pay and paid time off, PRG carries its philosophy of giving over to its associates. Panda Cares, Panda Express’ philanthropic arm that is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, not only focuses on giving back to the communities in which it serves, but also giving back to its employees in times of need such as natural disasters or illness. Our strong commitment to our Panda family is an invaluable trait that differentiates PRG from other workplaces.
Q: Can you talk about how leadership plays a role in keeping staff engaged and part of the overall process?
A: We look to our leaders to set the tone in creating an environment where associates’ voices are heard, and they are inspired to create a better life for themselves and to inspire others to do the same. They are able to do this as our leaders have had the chance to move through the ranks themselves and experience all aspects of the job.
Panda Express continuously promotes from within, with the internal promotion rate from hourly to management positions being 70 percent while multi-unit managers and above are 100 percent internally promoted, including operation leaders. It is because of these opportunities that our leaders are able to set the tone and keep associates engaged and excited about their futures.
Q: How have rising minimum wage requirements in various states and cities affected your company?
A: We are committed to the personal development of our associates and it is our priority is to take care of our people. PRG offers a great career path, so we feel it’s important to invest in our employees and because of this, we offer above minimum wage in most of our regions.
2 Panda Restaurant Group
Industry: Restaurant chain
OC locations: 57
OC employees: 764
Years named a Top Workplace: 5
Quote: “Our strong commitment to our Panda family is an invaluable trait that differentiates PRG from other workplaces.” — The executive team at Panda Restaurant Group
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