By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Panda Express now open. Here's how it reaches beyond orange chicken
12182018 PANDA 4.jpg
Panda Express serves dishes like fried rice and sesame chicken at Gainesville Towne Center off of Browns Ridge Road. - photo by Scott Rogers

Forget driving to Dawsonville or the Mall of Georgia to get your fix of orange chicken — Panda Express has arrived in Gainesville. 

The fast-casual restaurant is located at 1500 Browns Ridge Road in the Gainesville Towne Center. 

During its soft-opening Thursday, Dec. 14, people trickled into the restaurant and then quickly spread word of the place’s launch. 

Chris Dang, the Gainesville location’s general manager, said the place became engulfed with customers on Saturday. 

“Chinese food is a comfort food, so what better way to celebrate comfort food than with your family and friends,” he said. 

Besides satisfying customers with chow mein, fried rice and an assortment of glazed meat options, Dang said Panda Express seeks to enhance the quality of life for its staff and those in the community. 

12182018 PANDA 3.jpg
Panda Express server Ensly Chan takes customer's food orders Monday, Dec. 17, 2018. The restaurant recently opened at Gainesville Towne Center off of Browns Ridge Road. - photo by Scott Rogers

He explained the mission of Panda Express, stating that its goal is to become recognized as a world leader in “people development.”

Dang said people development involves helping staff advance in the restaurant industry or whatever career they intend to pursue. 

“In any business, your food or your product is the foundation of your finances, but for quality growth, you can’t just only focus on that,” he said. 

Dang started working for Panda Express in Inglewood, California, after being unemployed for a year and a half. Three months later he moved up from his job at the front counter to the role of assistant manager. Fast-forward a couple of months and he became the general manager. 

12182018 PANDA 1.jpg
Panda Express server Ensly Chan takes customers' orders Monday, Dec. 17, 2018, as the new restaurant opens to hungry customers at Gainesville Towne Center off of Browns Ridge Road. - photo by Scott Rogers

From the day he received the title of general manager until now, Dang said he keeps asking himself, “Where can I go to get that much advancement that quickly?”

Now with around 10 years experience as a general manager, Dang seeks to help others along their career paths. 

One of his most memorable success stories involved a cook who worked for Panda Express for six years. When Dang took over the cook’s store, he soon discovered that his employee wanted to become a truck driver. 

Dang said he assumed the role of the man’s counselor and coordinated with a driving school to help provide necessary skills for his dream job. 

Six months later, the man left Panda Express to become a full-time truck driver. 

 “We’re not just here to keep people,” Dang said. “Of course we’re a business that wants to run, but people will always come if we’re giving the community something they want. I connect with that a lot.”

Once the Gainesville Panda Express gets settled into its new location, Dang said he plans to find ways to give back to the community, whether raising funds for a local organization or offering catering for a school event.

12182018 PANDA 2.jpg
Panda Express customer April Kastner picks up food orders for friends from server Mariela Prieto on Monday, Dec. 17, 2018, at the new restaurant at Gainesville Towne Center off of Browns Ridge Road. - photo by Scott Rogers

The restaurant now is run by staff members of other Panda Express locations, but Dang said he is aggressively looking to employ people in the Gainesville area. 

For those interested in applying for a job at the Gainesville Panda Express or for more questions about the fast-casual restaurant, call 678-928-9228.

Panda Express is open from 10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Monday-Thursday; 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.,  Friday-Saturday and 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday. The drive-thru remains open 30 minutes after the dining area closes.