The Great Line of China

By Eva McEnrue

Panda Express opened its first location in the state Wednesday at the UK Student Center.

Students eagerly waited in a line extending through the Student Center’s first floor and into the Cats Den for a taste of the Asian cuisine. UK is the restaurant’s 10th franchise partner.

Panda Express offers a variety of Chinese dishes presented on a steam table for customers to observe.

“Each dish is prepared daily in small batches so it is guaranteed to be fresh,” Panda Express Field Marketing Manager Melissa Martinez said. “Customers may also sample dishes before they order.”

The eatery offers sushi as well as Wok Smart dishes, which contain 250 calories or less per single serving.

An attached room allows for students to dine in or take out.

“Panda Express offers students great meals, great values and a great destination to hang out with friends,” Jenny Yau, Panda Express national license operations manager, said.

“This opening is an important milestone for Panda Express,” the restaurant’s Regional Director of Operations Mavis Orr said. “It provides more growth and more opportunity.”

The family-owned franchise opened in 1983 and now has 1,300 U.S. locations. Panda Express’s vision is to have more than 2,300 locations worldwide by 2015, Orr said.

The California-based chain expanded to several college campuses as a new marketing outlet and has been received positively.

“We hope that students will become fans of Panda Express,” Orr said. “It is a growing company with plenty of leadership opportunities for recent graduates.”

The eatery employs a combination of full-time staff and students.

The new restaurant is just one more step toward UK reaching its goal to become a Top 20 university, UK Provost Kumble Subbaswamy said during a speech.

“Top 20 means being the best at everything we do: providing the best in-class experience to our students, the best out-of-class experience and the best dining experience,” he said.

“Because, let’s be honest about it, a lot of out-of-class socialization takes place around meals and drinks, so having the absolute best possible is really what we are all about.”

Panda Express will be open 10:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. weekdays on the Student Center first floor.