Panda Express wants to hire 30,000 people nationwide as it prepares to reopen dining rooms for carryout starting June 16.
The company also announced Monday the launch of direct delivery, a program the chain planned to launch 12 months from now but accelerated amid the pandemic. While the brand said it is cutting out the middle man for consumers, it is still working with a third-party delivery company to perform the last-mile meal delivery. A company representative told Nation's Restaurant News delivery orders can be made directly through the chain's branded channels (website or app) but DoorDash fulfills the delivery.
Direct delivery is available at 1,700 locations.
The company is still working with third-party delivery operators Postmates and Uber Eats.
The move to hire more staff comes as other chains have sought to hire thousands of more workers as coronavirus-related restrictions and stay-at-home orders ease across the U.S.
The family-owned Chinese restaurant chain employs about 38,000 associates.
Like Taco Bell, which previously announced the need to hire 30,000 employees this summer, Panda Express said many of the positions will fill new safety-focused roles created to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
The Rosemead, Calif.-based chain, whose parent company is Panda Restaurant Group Inc., said new positions will help each restaurant “execute the new health and safety operations and procedures, such as contactless service, curbside assistance, drive-thru assistance, expediters for to-go and online ordering, as well as new cleanliness protocols.”
The company is also recruiting for new store openings and future growth.
“In our second phase of normalizing operations, stores will open dine-in service with new protocols that create the safest and most comfortable restaurant experience,” the company said.
The company noted it did not furlough any workers during the pandemic, even at stores that had to temporarily close.
“While some Panda Express locations had to close to help keep associates and guests safe or due to government ordinances, we chose not to furlough anyone during this pandemic,” the company told Nation’s Restaurant News in a statement. “For stores that were closed, we supported our team members with store closure pay.”
During mandated dine-in closures, Panda Express restaurants operated a limited menu of fan favorites to streamline drive-thru and delivery orders.
The company said it has started to bring back its full menu and expects all of its dishes to be available nationwide by July.
For fiscal year 2019, Panda Express stores, systemwide, in the U.S. logged sales of $3.95 billion, up 12.1% from fiscal 2018. The company and its franchisees operate about 2,200 restaurants in the U.S.
Last week, Dunkin’ announced plans to lure new hires with a college-degree perk. The quick-service chain said it needs 25,000 new hires this summer. The positions range from entry-level roles to assistant managers and restaurant managers.
Senior editor Alan Liddle contributed to this report.
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