In 2017, fast-food chain Panda Express celebrated the opening of its 2,000th branch. Since then, she has opened another two hundred restaurants where lovers of everything crunchy and spicy-sweet go to dine. The menu combines Chinese and American cuisine. The most famous of them is chicken pieces in orange sauce. It began to be served in 1987, four years after creating the brand. And in 2008, chefs began to cook the popular Beijing Beef from beef, onions, and bell peppers. Just a year later, a low-calorie diet food appeared. In 2010, the first portion of shrimp with nuts and honey was sold. Authentic fast food is available in more than ten countries worldwide, including the UAE, South Korea, and Canada.
Meaning and History
Together with Panda Inn, the Panda Express brand is owned by the large Panda Restaurant Group. The history of the family business began in 1973 when chef Ming-Tsai Cherng and his son Andrew opened their first Szechuan restaurant. Later they were joined by Peggy Cherng, Andrew’s wife. To attract customers, they had to run many promotions and give away food for free.
The Panda Inn brand was in danger of going bankrupt, but it had a fast-food version – Panda Express. This happened in 1983 after the manager of Glendale Galleria suggested that restaurant owners open a fast food outlet in the mall. We can say they were lucky because they would not have succeeded without connections with Terrence Michael Donahue’s football coach.
Since then, the network has been actively expanding. Its branches operate not only on city streets but also at airports, university campuses, stadiums, and military bases. That is, the Panda Express logo, which at the same time serves as an advertising sign, is familiar to millions of people. It looks very stylish because restaurant owners have considered the brand’s visual identity as important as a thoughtful menu.
Designers have created the most suitable symbol for catering establishments – the image of a panda. This is a logical choice, in line with the company’s vision and underlining its connection with Chinese culture. The Panda Express trademark was once tried to be stolen by scammers. They opened a restaurant with the same name to pass it off as a chain branch and used the original logo without permission. After an investigation, the illegal point was closed, and its owners were fined.
In addition, recently, Panda Express has a competitor – Panda Libre, with Mexican-Asian cuisine. Due to the similarity of names and the common mascot presented on the emblems, a Chinese restaurant chain filed a copyright infringement in 2020. As a result, the business owner was forced to rename his catering outlet to Kung Pow Restaurant. Moreover, the Panda Express company itself uses a logo similar to the symbol of the public organization World Wide Fund for Nature, but this does not bother anyone. A standing panda is depicted both there and there, only for the fast-food brand it is directed to the left, and for WWF, it is directed to the right.
1973 – 1983
Before Panda Express entered the market, there was a chain of Panda Inn restaurants serving traditional Szechuan food in a formal setting. Its first establishment was opened in 1973, and at the same time, the logo appeared, which lingered for the next ten years. The central character, as expected, was the panda. The artists depicted her in cartoon style, with a green bamboo shoot in her front paws. And to make the black-and-white animal stand out better, they added a large red circle with a black border against the background – a kind of sun.
In the lower half was a crimson rectangular tablet with white inscriptions. The brand name occupied the top line. In the middle was the phrase “MANDARIN CUISINE,” underlined on both sides with horizontal lines. And below it is three Chinese characters. For words in English, a thin sans-serif font was used.
1983 – 2009
In 1983, a “fast food” version of Panda Inn appeared – Panda Express. The new restaurant chain inherited from its predecessor the name and a system of graphic symbols. She got a similar logo with the image of a panda, although this time, the animal was not sitting but standing so that only three paws were visible. The overall design was reminiscent of the world-famous WWF badge. The background circle hasn’t disappeared. The developers designed it to look like a rondel, highlighting the scarlet middle and a wide white ring along the edge. The black outer outline became scarlet. The rectangular tablet disappeared, so all the inscriptions were in the ring. Traditionally, the brand name was on top, and below it was the phrase “GOURMET CHINESE FOOD.”
2009 – 2014
In 2009, Panda Express made its logo more expressive. To do this, she had to replace the red color with crimson and use a bold black sans-serif font for the text.
2014 – today
A few years later, the company again modernized the graphic symbol. The crimson color became a pale red, and all the edges of the letters were rounded off. But the most significant update is that the brand name is now partly written in a serif font. As for the painted panda, the designers have slightly changed its shape, although this is not so noticeable. In place of the long phrase “GOURMET CHINESE FOOD” is the terse phrase “CHINESE KITCHEN.”
Font and Colors of the Emblem
The restaurant chain’s mascot demonstrates its connection to China, as pandas are found only there. These animals are considered a national symbol of the PRC and are even used as a diplomatic tool – a “living gift” for friendly states. And modern China rents them out for ten years and takes them back along with the cubs, so it’s hard to come up with something more Chinese than a panda. The country’s authorities do not allow bamboo bears to settle around the world and make good money on them, although all the money goes to the endangered species protection fund. So the Panda Express logo fully reflects the concept of the restaurant.
Until 2014, the words on the brand logo were written in Frutiger Cond Bold, which appeared thanks to Adrian Frutiger. Then the typographers worked a bit on the style and transformed the grotesque so that the letters “P” and “D” appeared one short serif at the top. And the edges of all symbols have become rounded, which was not observed before.
The color scheme has also been changed: the traditional raspberry shade (#CE123D) has been replaced by red (#C12322). After the redesign, only black (#000000) and white (#FFFFFF) remained.