Panda Express Franchise Owner Salary, Profit, Failure Rate 2024

For over 30 years, Panda Express has been serving delicious Chinese-American fare to millions of people worldwide.

From Mexico and South Korea to Los Angeles, New York City, and everywhere in between, Panda Express has become a household name for delicious Asian dishes.

Considering the vast popularity of the chain, it’s no surprise that many people are interested in franchising with Panda Express.

So, does Panda Express offer franchise opportunities? If not, what are potential alternatives?

In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about Panda Express franchises — and what you can do if you’re looking for a similar business opportunity.

Panda Express Franchise

About Panda Express

Company TypeGym
Company Foundation Year1992
Year of Launching the Franchise2003
Franchise Enterprises1,353
Corporate Address4 Liberty Ln. West Hampton, NH 03842, USA

Panda Express is a fast-casual restaurant chain that specializes in American Chinese cuisine. Founded in 1983, it is now the largest Asian-segment restaurant chain in the United States. 

At Panda Express, you can enjoy a variety of dishes cooked to order with fresh ingredients and seasonings.

Their signature dish is Orange Chicken, which features chunks of juicy chicken breast and crunchy vegetables, all tossed in a sweet and tangy orange sauce.

Chow Mein, another popular item on their menu, consists of wok-fried noodles mixed with a savory sauce and your choice of protein and vegetables. 

In addition to its main dishes, Panda Express also offers sides like egg rolls, fried rice, pot stickers, chow mien funs, and more.

With each meal comes the option of white or brown rice as well as fortune cookies for dessert. 

The atmosphere at Panda Express restaurants is inviting and casual; families are welcome to sit down together or grab food to go quickly.

The affordable prices make Panda Express an ideal spot for everyone looking for a delicious meal without breaking the bank.

Panda Express Franchise History

Panda Express is a fast-casual restaurant chain that has become renowned the world over for its delicious American Chinese cuisine.

Founded in 1983 by Andrew Cherng and his father Ming-Tsai Cherng, Panda Express quickly grew in popularity thanks to its tasty dishes, inviting atmosphere, and affordable prices. 

Panda Express began as an upscale table service restaurant called Panda Inn in Pasadena, California.

However, it was through their connection with then-UCLA football coach Terry Donahue that the Cherngs were invited to open a fast food version of Panda Inn at Glendale Galleria in October 1983. 

From there, the first ever Panda Express was opened, and their rise to fame began. 

The name “Panda Express” was chosen to emphasize the speed and convenience of the dining experience.

The restaurant chain began to expand rapidly in the following years, with its hundredth location opening on the UCLA campus in 1993. 

In 2007, Panda Express opened its 1,000th location in Pasadena, and the same year achieved $1 billion in annual revenues for the first time.

Ten years later, in 2017, Panda Express opened its 2,000th location in New York City. 

Today, the restaurant chain boasts over 2,300 locations spread across the United States and around the world.

Over the years, Panda Express has solidified itself as a mainstay in the American Chinese food industry, serving delicious dishes to millions of satisfied customers. 

If you’re considering investing in a Panda Express franchise, it’s essential to understand the company’s ownership dynamics, which includes knowing- Who Owns Panda Express. This allows you to get valuable insights into the business model and the advantages of being a franchisee.

Franchise Model

Franchise Cost ComponentCost Range
Initial Franchise Fee$20,000
Site Selection Costs$1,000 – $10,000
Leasehold Improvement Costs$575,000 – $1.94M
Fitness Equipment$43,000 – $953,000
Non-Fitness Equipment$61,000 – $721,000
Presale and Grand Opening Marketing$40,000 – $60,000
Exterior Signs$11,000 – $36,000
Computer Systems$6,000 – $20,000
Insurance$5,000 – $25,000
Real Estate Lease DepositsUp to $87,000
Professional FeesUp to $25,000
Additional Funds – Six MonthsUp to $598,000
Total Initial Investment Range$936,600 – $4,558,500

Is Panda Express A Franchise?

Yes, Panda Express is a franchise. It is a fast-food restaurant chain that offers American-Chinese cuisine. Panda Express operates under a franchise model, allowing individuals to own and operate their own Panda Express restaurant by entering into a franchise agreement with the company.

How Much Does It Cost To Open a Panda Express Franchise?

How Much Does It Cost To Open a Panda Express Franchise

The cost of starting a Panda Express franchise can range from $936,600 to $4,558,500. This includes several components, such as the initial franchise fee of $20,000, site selection costs of $1,000 to $10,000, and leasehold improvement costs ranging from $575,000 to $1.94 million.

Additionally, there are costs for fitness equipment ($43,000 to $953,000), non-fitness equipment ($61,000 to $721,000), marketing expenses ($40,000 to $60,000), and other items like exterior signs, computer systems, insurance, real estate lease deposits, and professional fees.

Panda Express Revenue & Profit

Year: 2021 Revenue (in billions USD): 3.5 Average Annual Revenue per Store (in USD): 616,240 Profit Margin: 30% Profit Per Store (in USD): $184,872

Panda Express has experienced exponential growth in its three decades of operation, culminating in a peak revenue of $3.5 billion in 2021.

This translates to an average annual revenue per store of $616,240 — a significant number considering the chain only operates about 2,300 locations worldwide. 

This impressive figure is mainly due to Panda Express’s unique approach to fast-casual dining, offering high-quality Chinese food at accessible prices.

The company’s commitment to quality extends past its product and into its operations as well; Panda Express maintains a strict 30% EBITDA margin which allows it to remain profitable while reinvesting capital back into the business.

This helps the chain to stay agile and well-positioned to grow even further in the future. 

How much does Franchise Owner Make In Salary?

The average annual franchise owner salary for Panda Express is $184,872. This figure represents the profit per store achieved by franchise owners after deducting operational expenses and considering the company’s 30% profit margin.

This is how we calculated this profit figure:

Financial OverviewPercentage of RevenueAmount ($)
Individual Franchise Annual Revenue100%616240.00
Franchise Royalty Fees4.38%(26960.50)
Cost of Goods Sold (COGS)21.88%(134802.50)
Labor (Variable)11.38%(70097.30)
Total (Expenses)70.00%(431368.00)
Net Profit30.00%184872.00

Note: The displayed expenses are estimates based on industry averages and standard costs. Actual expenses may vary due to factors like location, business size, and market conditions. We recommend conducting detailed research or consulting with a financial advisor for a tailored financial analysis.

Panda Express Franchise Failure Rate

Franchised Outlets:

YearOutlets at the Start of the YearOutlets at the End of the YearNet Change
2018108125 17

For the Franchised outlets:

  • In 2018, the growth rate was (17)/108×100≈15.74%
  • In 2019, the growth rate was (13)/125×100≈10.4%
  • In 2020, the growth rate was (2)/138×100≈1.44%

Company-Owned Outlets:

YearOutlets at the Start of the YearOutlets at the End of the YearNet Change
20202,0462,099 53

For the Company-Owned outlets:

  • In 2018, the growth rate was (82)/1,897×100≈4.32%
  • In 2019, the growth rate was (67)/1,979×100≈3.38%
  • In 2020, the growth rate was (53)/2,046×100≈2.59%

Total Outlets:

YearOutlets at the Start of the YearOutlets at the End of the YearNet Change

For Total outlets:

  • In 2018, the growth rate was (101)/2,005×100≈5.03%
  • In 2019, the growth rate was (78)/2,106×100≈3.7%
  • In 2020, the growth rate was (55)/2,184×100≈2.51%

According to the above-mentioned data, there is no failure rate for franchised outlets as the outlets at the end of the year increased during the span of 3 years.

We can see that the franchised outlets for Panda Express grew during 2018 to 2019, showing a growth rate between 15.74% and 1.44%. On the other hand, for company-owned outlets, the growth rate of Panda Express ranges between 4.32% and 2.59% for the same period of time.

Overall, when we combine the data of franchise and company-owned outlets, we can see that Panda Express franchise has expanded during 2018-2020 showing a total growth rate between 5.03% and 2.51%.

Panda Express Franchise Payback Period

Panda Express Franchise Payback Period

With a midpoint investment of $1,415,350 and the yearly profit would be $184,872.

So, to find out how long it will take to earn back the initial investment:

Payback Period = Midpoint Investment / Yearly Profit = $1,415,350 / $184,872 = 7.65 years

It would take around 7.65 years to pay back the initial investment for a Papa Murphy’s franchise based on these figures. This time could be shorter or longer depending on many things like sales, costs, and how the business is run.

What Are Some Alternatives To Panda Express Franchise?

For entrepreneurs looking for a similar type of business opportunity with fewer capital requirements, there are several alternatives to the Panda Express franchise.

Here are some popular options:

Noodles & Company

If you’re looking for a fast-casual franchising opportunity, Noodles & Company is one of the most popular options out there.

While its menu focuses mostly on noodle dishes from around the world, it also offers other items like soups and salads. 

Founded in 1995, Noodles & Company has grown to more than 470 locations across the country and shows no signs of slowing down.

Unlike most fast food restaurants, Noodles & Company focuses on providing a higher quality dining experience with made-to-order meals that are both delicious and nutritious.

The initial investment required to open a Noodles & Company restaurant ranges from $727,300 to $1,032,642, depending on size and location.

This includes expenses for equipment procurement, construction costs, working capital, marketing funds, and more. 

Manchu Wok

If you’re looking to get into the Chinese food industry without shelling out a fortune, Manchu Wok is an ideal choice.

Founded in 1980, this American-Chinese fast-food chain operates about 70 locations across America and Canada.

Unlike Panda Express, Manchu Wok does offer franchising opportunities to experienced entrepreneurs.

While the investment range is still hefty, ranging from $476,050 to $787,500, it’s a lower upfront cost than the Panda Express licensing program.

In return for the substantial investment, franchisees will receive access to some of Manchu Wok’s most popular menu items, as well as their logo and branding materials.

They’ll also have access to ongoing operational and marketing support from the corporate office, thus making it less risky to open a Manchu Wok franchise.

Panda Express Comparison

Panda ExpressNoodles & Company
Year Founded19831995
Franchise FeeN/A$35,000
Initial Investment$370,000–$1,550,200$727,300–$1,032,642
Number of Outlets2300+270+


Panda Express has become a beloved chain in the United States thanks to its tasty and affordable Chinese food.

However, they don’t offer franchise opportunities like other popular fast-food restaurants. 

While this can be a major setback for aspiring entrepreneurs looking to get into the restaurant business, there are some great alternatives out there that offer franchising opportunities with lower upfront costs, such as Noodles & Company and Manchu Wok.

Frequently Asked Questions 

How Much Does It Cost To Open a Franchise Similar to Panda Express?

The cost to open a franchise similar to Panda Express varies depending on the company you choose, but it ranges anywhere from $476,050 to over $1 million. 

How many locations does Panda Express have?

Currently, Panda Express has more than 2300 stores.

Who owns Panda Express?

Panda Express is the largest family-owned and operated Asian dining concept in America. It is owned by the co-founders Andrew and Peggy Cherng.

Where is Panda Expresss Headquartered?

The headquarters of the company is located in Rosemead, California.

Leave a Comment