Chinese man arrives in US as F1 student, grows $2 billion restaurant empire

In 1966, a young Chinese immigrant from the Jiangsu province in China came to the U.S. on a student visa.  His plan was to study mathematics and he enrolled at Baker University in Baldwin, Kansas.
His name – Andrew Cherng.
Years later, in the 1980s, he operated a small, sit-down Chinese restaurant known as the Panda Inn in Los Angeles.  A local shopping mall developer approached Cherng about the possibility of opening a fast-food location in the Glendale Galleria, near downtown L.A.
Cherng had never heard of shopping mall food courts, but he took a chance and opened the first Panda Express in 1983.
From those humble beginnings, Panda Express has grown to 17,000 employees in 36 states.  The chain generates well over $1 billion in revenue each year.  The company achieved 12 consecutive years of same-store-sales growth.
Cherng has resisted the urge to franchise the restaurant and all stores are company-owned.  The owner has also refrained from taking the company public, choosing to avoid shareholder-generated headaches.
Mr. Andrew Cherng
Panda Express Founder Andrew Cherng
The biggest seller at Panda Express is Orange Chicken.  In fact, 4 out of every 10 customers order the popular dish.
Cherng and his wife, Peggy, have three daughters.  Their estimated worth is $2 billion.  Panda Express is believed to be the largest family-owned fast-food empire in America.

In a recent interview, Cherng was asked about his personal priorities at this point in his career.  He replied:

I always focus on growing our business not only for the quality, but to do it very, very well.  It’s about relationships, about the details, about the execution.

Stories like Andrew Cherng often get lost in the immigration debate.  We hope you liked it.

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