Panda Express looking for growth abroad

Panda Express this summer will join the growing number of restaurant chains looking for international growth, including possibly in China.

In August, the Rosemead, Calif.-based quick-service will launch a new international push with the opening of a Panda Express in Mexico City. The unit will be opened by franchisee Grupo Gigante, through an operating subsidiary called Chinese Fast Food, according to an announcement by the franchise operator in Mexico.

Thien Ho, a spokeswoman for the chain’s parent Panda Restaurant Group, said the franchisee has not yet said how many units are planned in Mexico.

Other international regions are also being looked at, including China, said Ho.

Earlier this week, Andrew Cherng, chairman of Panda Restaurant Group, told Forbes that he was “working on some angles” for investment in China, where he was born. Cherng is traveling in China, Ho said, and could not be reached to clarify.

Other than the unit in Mexico, however, the company has no other international commitments yet, said Ho.

In 1992, the chain tested the possibility of opening in Japan, but the company instead focused on domestic growth.

With close to 1,400 units in the U.S., Panda Express was one of the Top 10 fastest growing chains in 2010, according to a recent report by Technomic Inc. The chain had sales of $1.4 billion in 2010, a 13 percent increase over the prior year.

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected]