COLLEGE PLACE - Panda Express, the gourmet Chinese fast-food restaurant chain that operates in shopping centers, supermarkets, stadiums and strip malls all over the country, will open in College Place on Monday.
The new location at 1721 S.E. Meadowbrook Blvd., across from Wal-Mart, not only introduces a new chain to the Walla Walla Valley but also expands the selection of eateries in College Place, said City Administrator Pat Reay.
He said restaurants and food service are in demand in the community of more than 9,000 residents. Its location off State Route 125 between Walla Walla and Milton-Freewater at the growing shopping destination known as Meadowbrook Plaza should attract customers from both sides of the state line.
Famous for its orange chicken, Panda Express offers everything from vegetarian entrees to hot and spicy dishes, said Jospeh Beltran, general manager of the College Place store.
He said about nine people are currently employed at the business. Another four are expected to round out the team of employees.
Panda Express is a more than 25-year-old corporate chain started by Andrew and Peggy Cherng. Andrew Cherng grew up as the son of a master chef in the Yangzhou region of China. He brought his father's recipes with him when he moved to the United States, according to the company's website.
He and his wife opened their first Panda Express in Glendale, Calif., in 1983. Today, they own more than 1,300 Panda Express operations across the country and in Puerto Rico.
The company attributes its growth in part to its venue flexibility. Panda Express operates in retail stores, airports, libraries, on college campuses, in casinos and amusement parks. It was reportedly the first quick-service restaurant to open in a supermarket when it launched in Safeway Corp.'s Pavilions.
In the last several years, the company's focus on growth has been in freestanding or end-cap locations, such as the one in College Place.
As part of the opening-day celebration, the eatery will offer giveaways and specials. Those who attend can get a free two-entree plate when they buy a first one.
The new Panda Express will open at 11 a.m. Monday, but after that hours will be 10:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m. daily.