Cherngs Panda Restaurant Group

The Power List 2017: Andrew and Peggy Cherng

NRN presents The Power List 2017, our fourth annual list of the most powerful people in foodservice. The Top 10 on the list are leading the restaurant industry today, and shaping its future.

As the co-CEOs of Rosemead, Calif.-based Panda Restaurant Group Inc., Andrew and Peggy Cherng have built Panda Express to nearly 1,900 restaurants. Instead of pulling back to enjoy the success of their more than 30 years of work in the foodservice industry, the Cherngs are charging forward, supporting emerging restaurant brands.

The Cherngs recently made a series of diverse investment moves that reflect the Cherngs influence in this restaurant industry, and just how little interest they have in playing it safe.

In November, the couple made its second investment to grow Just Salad, the New York City-based fast-casual salad chain it provided a first round of capital to earlier in the year. A month prior to that news, the Cherngs said they would move forward with plans to grow Uncle Tetsu, a Japanese cheesecake concept that made its U.S. mainland debut last year in Arcadia, Calif.

With the Cherngs’ investments, the couple is connecting with smaller brands that tap into what more consumers are looking for — fresh foods, fast service and innovative menus.

The Cherng family trust also invested in Taiwan-based Japanese barbecue concept YakiYan and New York ramen brasserie Ippudo. As if that weren’t enough, the couple kicked off 2016 by investing in the rapidly growing Pieology, a Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.-based fast-casual pizza brand. In response to the investment, Pieology founder Carl Chang expressed how most in the industry feel about the powerful couple.

“We are humbled by Andrew and Peggy’s trust in Pieology as a leader in the fast casual custom pizza category,” Chang said in a statement. “We are truly honored to be partnering with the Cherng family, for whom I have tremendous respect.”

Nation’s Restaurant News recognized Peggy Cherng as a 2015 Golden Chain winner for her outstanding leadership, success and generosity — she founded Panda Cares, which provides community service to the areas where the brand operates. The program has raised $60 million for underserved children and disaster relieve efforts, and is representative of the company’s core values.

“We have five values, and giving is one of those values,” Cherng told NRN when interviewed about her Golden Chain win. “We feel that we need to give back to the community.”

Giving seems to be a common theme with the Cherngs. Whether it’s to help grow fledging restaurant brands or support the people and places that have contributed to their three-plus decades of success, it’s at the basis of how they do business.

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