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Chinese food comes to China?
Panda Express eyes the mainland Chinese market, but are local palates ready for American Chinese food?
Think Panda Express and images of gooey General Tso’s Chicken, beef and broccoli or chop suey come to mind. Ask a Chinese person in China which of these dishes they prefer and you’ll likely hear one resounding answer: “Those are Chinese dishes?”
With a few notable exceptions, most American Chinese food is a completely different food group from the dishes you find in mainland China, but that’s not deterring the company that made Chinese fast food big business in the United States, California-based Panda Restaurant Group, from looking to the Chinese market for its next big win.
Making up the biggest Chinese-style restaurant chain in the United States -- which includes Panda Express, Panda Inn and Hibachi-San -- Panda Restaurant Group has over 1,400 stores and is now looking to mainland China, according to a recent Forbes report.
“I’m working on some angles,” said Panda Restaurant Group chairman Andrew Cherng to Forbes last Friday of the prospect of expansion.
Cherng was in Nanjing last week for a conference organized by Golden Eagle International Group. Cherng said working with Golden Eagle in China was a strong possibility.
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Over recent years Chinese consumers have embraced just about every other major American fast food chain from McDonald’s to Carl's Jr., Starbucks to Dairy Queen and Papa John’s, and this is what Panda Express and its counter parts are counting on.
The question is, will they have the home field advantage in China or will American Chinese food be foreign enough that they’ll have to start from scratch and earn their place alongside other major brands?