Peggy and Andrew Cherng
Today Rosemead, California headquartered Panda Restaurant Group (PRG) operates 1,800 restaurants and employs 26,000 people. Last year, revenue reached $2.2 billion, nearly twice what it was just four years ago.
PRG owns and operates restaurants in 42 U.S. states and in Puerto Rico and Canada, and has franchised operations in Dubai, Korea and Mexico.
Yet it all started so simply.
Andrew and his father had come from mainland China and were operating a successful gourmet restaurant, Panda Inn, in Pasadena, California.
Peggy, who had been raised in Hong Kong, met Andrew in college in the U.S. They got married and she became a Ph.D. engineer working in aerospace. She and Andrew had three children.
One day in 1983, the owner of the nearby Glendale Galleria contacted Andrew and suggested Panda Inn open a fast food version of its restaurant there.
Andrew had no experience in fast food, yet he and Peggy saw an opportunity and promptly acted on it.
But the results were dreadful.
They quickly learned gourmet Chinese food doesn't lend itself to being prepared as fast food.
Fast food is largely pre-prepared and has a very short shelf life before being eaten or discarded, which meant Peggy and Andrew had a lot of wasted food, and financial losses to go with it.
But they didn't quit.
What followed were customer input, trial and error, and eventually a sharply limited menu, whose ingredients lent themselves to tasty fast food at competitive prices.
With time, patience and persistence, Peggy and Andrew built a winning fast food formula.
Andrew then focused on expanding the chain, while Peggy concentrated on operations, working with suppliers, employees and other people vital to the business.
Today, Peggy and Andrew are very wealthy, but that is not the most important part of our story.
The most important part is that to date, through Panda Cares, they have contributed to charities in the U.S. and abroad more than $40 million in cash and food. And those contributions continue.