Panda Express to open in Student Center



By Jill Seelmeyer

Students who love Chinese food will no longer have to travel off-campus to satisfy their cravings.

The Chinese restaurant chain Panda Express is set to open in the Student Center during the spring semester, said Ray Schmidt, associate director of UK Dining Services.

“Our goal is to open right around spring break,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt said Panda Express approached UK about opening a restaurant on campus about two years ago, and UK Dining Services signed a five-year contract with Panda Express this summer.

“They were intrigued by the state of Kentucky,” Schmidt said.

Panda Express had a location in the Covington Airport, which is currently closed due to construction, Schmidt said, so the campus location would be the only one in the state.

Panda Express is a California based company, but it has been successful at colleges such as Penn State, Schmidt said. He anticipates similar success at UK.

“Part of what we really love about the concept is that the food is made right in front of you,” Schmidt said. “We are very optimistic that it will be well received.”

A UK Dining Services advisory board performed polls and talked to students, administrators, faculty and staff as part of the decision-making process to bring Panda Express to UK.

“We’re trying to stay relevant to students,” Schmidt said.

Menu items like the Panda Bowl, which includes an entrée and a side, are affordable and “travel-friendly,” Schmidt said.

The new restaurant will have a sushi chef and its own dining area where students can sit.

UK Dining Services is considering eventually adding weekend and evening hours for Panda Express, Schmidt said.

Currently, only Starbucks and the Quick Stop Convenience store are open on the weekends in the Student Center.

Students will be able to use their Flex and Plus accounts at Panda Express and the restaurant will also honor the 10 percent discount offered to students at all UK Dining Services when they use these accounts.

Panda Express will be located on the first floor of the Student Center, where Café du Chat is currently located. Café du Chat will not reopen in a new location, Schmidt said.

Zach Means, a civil engineering freshman, lives in Haggin and said the new restaurant would bring him to the Student Center more.

“I’m excited,” Means said. “I normally eat Chinese whenever I can. (Panda Express) will definitely give me a reason to walk down here.”