“Supporting the health and education of underserved children is of utmost importance to our Panda family.”
Born in the Yangzhou region of China, Andrew J. C. Cherng immigrated in 1966 at age 18 to the United States. Prior, he and his family lived in Hong Kong; Yokohama, Japan; and Taipei. After earning degrees in mathematics from Baker University and applied mathematics from the University of Missouri, he opened Panda Inn with his father, master chef Ming Tsai Cherng, in Pasadena, California, in 1973. In 1983, and with six additional restaurants, Panda Express was born. Panda Express restaurants now exceed USD 2.8 billion (RMB 17 billion) in annual sales. Panda Restaurant Group (PGR) is a world leader in Asian dining experiences with more than 2,000 restaurants in 46 states. It is the parent company of Panda Inn, Panda Express, and Hibachi-San, whose mission is to inspire better lives. The company is committed to the “Panda way” of healthy lifestyles, continuous learning, developing others, and acknowledging others.
Mrs. Peggy Tsiang Cherng is co-CEO and cochairman and plays a leading role in developing the organizational systems that make the company a success. She is credited with innovating what is commonly referred today as “point of sale” within the food industry. Sales are made more efficient when staff directly enter meal orders into a computer system. Mrs. Cherng was born in Myanmar, also known as Burma, raised in Hong Kong, and immigrated to the United States for college. She met her husband her freshman year at Baker University in Kansas. Mrs. Cherng’s corporate skills can be traced to her earned degrees in applied mathematics from Oregon State University and PhD in electrical engineering from the University of Missouri.
Through a number of giving organizations, the Cherng Family Trust, Panda Cares, and Panda Charitable Foundation, the Cherngs give primarily within the areas of education, your leadership development, and health. Panda Cares was established in 1999 and is the philanthropic arm of the Panda Restaurant Group. The mission of the Panda Cares Organization is to bring hope to children in need and the stated purpose is to foster the spirit of giving at Panda Restaurant Group by promoting the health and educational needs of underserved children. These goals are accomplished by providing food, funding, and volunteer services to underserved children and disaster relief efforts and by enlisting the goodwill of the 30,000 Panda Restaurant Group associates across the country. In 2016, Panda Restaurant Group ranked among the top 15 corporate givers in Los Angeles County with more than USD 3.6 million (RMB 22 million) in giving. Giving over the years has exceeded USD 81 million (RMB 494 million). Notable gifts include USD 2.5 million (RMB 15 million) to California State Polytechnic University, Pomona; USD one million (RMB 6 1 million) to the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games; USD 4 million (RMB 24 million) to City of Hope; and more than USD 6.1 million (RMB 37 million) to the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles.
In March 2017, the Cherngs gave a USD 30 million (RMB 180 million) gift to the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) medical engineering department. The department is therefore renamed after this generous couple, becoming the first of the university’s departments to be named and endowed. The Cherngs agreed to have their name attached to the department “in the hopes of inspiring others, particularly in the Chinese community, to follow in their footsteps” according to Peggy Cherng.
As immigrants, the Cherngs have expressed their sincere gratitude to the country and deep passion for the spirit of giving and paying it forward. The Cherngs express their giving aspirations primarily through the work of Panda Cares. Believing in corporate responsibility to the community, the Cherngs have given millions to nonprofit organizations, schools, and hospitals in communities where the Panda Restaurant Group operates. Mrs. Cherng is deeply committed to giving back to those communities. In the Los Angeles area, she also provides community leadership by serving on the boards of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Los Angeles Branch, and Caltech. Mr. Cherng also strongly believes in bettering communities and has given generously to California State Polytechnic University (Cal Poly), Pomona, in support of scholarships, student support programs, and The Collins School of Hospitality Management building. Mr. and Mrs. Cherng are strong proponents of continuous learning and self-improvement. Associates are supported and encouraged to pursue their passion through scholarships and learning funds in addition to being offered a recommended reading list on leadership, including Steven Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change.
Panda Cares has raised over USD 61 million (RMB 372 million) in support of children, the communities in which PGR operates, and to worldwide disaster relief. A primary concern is the well-being of children. “Supporting the health and education of underserved children is of utmost importance to our Panda family,” said Mrs. Cherng. With more than USD 31.6 million (RMB 193 million) invested in over 720 schools and impacting 550,000 students, it is a lead supporter of The Leader in Me school program (TLIM). TLIM supports the development of life and leadership skills among elementary school children and can be found in more than 3,000 schools around the world. TLIM is an initiative for schools developed by FranklinCovey, the popular personal time management program based on research by Dr. Steven Covey and the writings of Benjamin Franklin. It aims to prepare students to be successful in the 21st century by developing leadership skills. The Leader in Me program has undergone initial evaluation studies by third-party researchers and has been examined for changes in perceptions; knowledge and skill acquisition; and organizational change exhibited by students, principals, teachers, and school. At least six studies have been conducted, one of which also examined returns on investments. A 2015 study by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and the United Way of Acadiana concluded that four TLIM schools in Louisiana exhibited better math scores for African American students than other comparison schools. Future evaluations will more accurately determine the impact on other behavioral measures, such as attendance and suspensions, and student achievement, as better data become available.
Panda Cares not only invests in educational endeavors but also health and community development. The Cherngs have given USD 21 million (RMB 128 million) to the Children’s Miracle Network hospitals, a group of 170 children’s hospitals across the United States and Canada. Funds are used to support research and training, purchase equipment, and pay for uncompensated care. The Panda Cares Annual Charity Golf Tournament has raised USD 11 million (RMB 67 million) since the mid-1990s. In 2016, the charity event included 550 participants and raised USD 2 million (RMB 12 million) for children’s charities. As Andrew Cherng noted at the event, “Today is about giving back and having fun doing it at the same time...Giving and getting back and having a generous heart actually work better in life.”