14 Pros and Cons of Working for Panda Express

It’s unusual to go anywhere in the United States and not see the adorable little Panda that has come to represent delicious Chinese-inspired food.

Panda Express was founded in 1983 in California.

What began as a small kiosk stop in a mall, has grown to over 2200 locations across the country, as well as Canada, Mexico, Philippines, South Korea, and Germany.

Panda Express is still a staple in malls, but the panda has now taken up residence at college campuses, airports, amusement parks, military bases, and highways as a stand-alone eatery.

For those that may not know, Panda Express is not just some thrown together imitation fast food you grab while searching for a prom dress.

They offer freshly made classic Chinese cuisine, along with original dishes like the infamous Orange Chicken, Beijing Beef, and Honey Walnut Shrimp.

The restaurant even has a menu section called Wok Smart, which offers high protein meals that are under 300 calories.

Owners Andrew and Peggy Cherng are also huge philanthropists.

They started Panda Cares, which raises money for children in need and disaster victims.

To date, the organization has raised over $282 million dollars with the help of Panda Express customers and employees.

So what is it like to be a Panda Express employee?

We’ve scoured reviews, watched videos, and read articles that give us the scoop on what it’s like to work at Panda.

Keep in mind that all franchises can be different, but we’ve outlined the most commonly mentioned pros and cons.

If you’re interested in working at Panda Express, read on to see what’s good, and what needs improvement.

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Pros Of Working At Panda Express

1. Perks

Most of the workers agree one thing, that the perks at Panda Express are nothing to sneeze at.

Every employee gets at least one free, full-sized meal per shift.

They also get unlimited free drinks.

When not working, employees receive a nice 20% discount for themselves and their families.

Employees also get discounts at theme parks, on movie tickets, cell phones, and auto insurance.

2. Work-Life Balance

Many employees enjoy the work-life balance Panda Express offers.

They are able to choose their own schedule (within reason) so that they can work around school and family commitments.

As long as you tell the manager before the next shift assignments are given out, they will work with you to balance your time.

The company is also understanding about emergencies and illnesses popping up unexpectedly, so they will help you find coverage for when that occurs.

The best part is, when your shift is over, it’s over.

You don’t have to bring work home with you, or worry about texts or emails coming in during your personal time.

3. Culture/Atmosphere

For the most part, employees are quite positive about the work culture at Panda Express.

Describing fellow workers as fun to be around, friendly, and helpful.

More than a few stated that it’s very helpful to have the teamwork mindset that they do at Panda, because it makes everything easier, and the time goes by faster when everyone is working together.

Many employees have stated that they made very good friends at the restaurant that they socialize with outside of work.

4. Job Security

Panda Express employees say that if you have a good work ethic and do what your job description says, you are pretty guaranteed a job.

Additionally, good workers are rewarded with more hours and overtime if they choose to take them.

Panda Express is a billion dollar company that grows in popularity each year.

So they are always in need of employees that want to work as part of the Panda family.

5. Opportunity For Advancement

Panda Express believes in promoting from within.

So, if you prove yourself as a good front end/counter worker, chances are that in a few years you can be promoted to assistant manager and eventually manager of a franchise.

Some employees have also gone on to much higher-paying jobs as regional managers and corporate executives.

6. Encourages Workers’ Personal Development

Panda Express wants its employees to succeed in all areas of their lives.

That’s why they not only pay up to $2500 a year for tuition.

 Panda also offers free personal development courses to all employees.

This can be anything from organizational skills to computer literacy.

They believe the more employees know, the more productive they will be.

More importantly, personal fulfillment leads to improved happiness, which means workers are less stressed and better able to do their jobs.

The corporation also offers discounts on gym memberships at all 24-hour Fitness locations.

7. Benefits

Depending on how many hours you work, employees receive good benefits from Panda Express.

This includes medical, dental, and vision.

Additionally, workers are offered a matched 401K, paid time off, and disability insurance.

This is great for college students that may no longer be covered under their parents’ insurance, or parents that need coverage for their children.

Cons Of Working At Panda Express

1. Management

It’s not uncommon for employees to complain about their managers, and Panda Express is no exception.

Employees at many locations say that their managers do not do much to help, especially during busy times.

Workers state that they are often given short 10 minute breaks or no breaks at all by some managers.

Others state that their managers are irresponsible, play favorites, and are just downright mean and unreasonable.

2. Customers

While most customers get their food and leave without incident, there are those occasional problematic customers that can make working at Panda Express a nightmare.

Workers have reported people that have yelled and created a scene over a mistake in their order.

There’s also been times when people complain about the wait time.

Asking for the manager and reporting employees for the least little thing is unfortunately becoming more common in all areas of customer service.

3. Fast Paced/Stressful

Panda Express is a very popular chain. 

So there are times when it’s extremely busy.

Employees must be able to keep up and serve multiple people, make food, and perform other duties simultaneously.

All employees are required to know the entire menu and ingredients.

The job requires you to think fast, prepare food fast, with no room for error.

If that sounds too stressful, then don’t apply here.

4. Physically Demanding

The typical shift at Panda Express will have you on your feet for about 95% of the time.

There’s a lot of walking (even running) back and forth, lifting crates of food, and reaching.

If you don’t like physical activity or being on your feet for hours at a time, then working at Panda Express may not be the best job for you.

5. Work Schedule

Though many franchises work with employees to create a mutually acceptable schedule, some workers report that it’s not the case everywhere.

Employees have reported some locations as being short-staffed, so they must often work past their scheduled hours.

Sometimes they get called in at the last minute, and have to work on the weekends.

This is done for no overtime.

6. Dress Code

There are employees who are less than thrilled with the dress code at Panda Express.

 There are even people who have even turned down jobs at the restaurant because of it.

Aside from the signature Panda shirt and hat, employees must provide their own black slacks and rubber-soled shoes.

No jeans or khakis are allowed.

Black leggings are also not acceptable.

Additionally, no jewelry is allowed other than a wedding band and simple stud earrings.

So that means no facial piercings. Also, any tattoos must be covered and no fake eyelashes or acrylic nails are permitted.

7. Not Enough Consecutive Days Off

In some locations, staff have reported not having more than one day off at a time.

We all love a “weekend”.

Two or more days off in a row is important for people to recharge, get personal business taken care of, and spend time with family and friends.

The employees at some locations say that they are so short-staffed that managers can’t make schedules that allow for an appropriate amount of time off. 

14 Pros and Cons of Working for Panda Express – Summary Table

Pros Of Working At Panda ExpressCons Of Working At Panda Express
Work-Life BalanceCustomers
Culture/AtmosphereFast Paced/Stressful
Job SecurityPhysically Demanding
Opportunity For AdvancementWork Schedule
Encourages Workers' Personal DevelopmentDress Code
BenefitsNot Enough Consecutive Days Off

Should You Work At Panda Express?

Overall, Panda Express seems like a good first job, if you don’t mind a fast pace and some hard work.

The pay is not bad and there are some cool perks (free food).

There is room for advancement if you choose to stay on, and being a store or regional manager will certainly improve your income.

Many employees have stated that they’ve learned valuable skills at Panda Express that have helped them both personally and with other jobs.

Let’s be honest, all jobs have their drawbacks, especially at chain restaurants.

But if you can let the possibility of a terrible manager, the occasional cringy customer, and a fast pace roll off your back, then Panda Express may be a good option for you. 

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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