As part of its 30th anniversary celebration, Panda Express, which has nearly 1,600 restaurants throughout the United States and abroad, recently opened a location along the Highway 281 corridor in Grand Island.

The $850,000 Grand Island restaurant is part of a new generation of Panda Express locations reflecting the chain’s “Bright and Fresh” style. Introduced in 2012, Panda Express’ “Bright and Fresh” design concept includes bold color accents, natural materials and integrated landscaping.

The restaurant includes a drive-through and offers catering.

Panda Express offers food such as orange chicken, Beijing beef, Mandarin chicken and Kung Pao chicken. Combo meals are served with fried rice, steamed rice, chow mein or mixed vegetables.

According to Panda Express’ website, the restaurant’s orange chicken was inspired by the Hunan Province in south central China.

“It is prepared with crispy boneless chicken bites, tossed in the wok with our secret sweet and spicy orange sauce,” according to a description on the website.

As part of Panda Express’ theme of “Make Life Delicious,” workers fresh cut vegetables for their dishes every day.

“Panda uses only the freshest and most delicious ingredients in our dishes,” according to the website. “From crisp broccoli and string beans to sweet red bell peppers and tender sliced zucchini, our veggies are cut fresh every day and share the spotlight in our wok-tossed entrees.”

The Panda Wok Smart menu contains dishes with 250 calories or less.

Panda Express also offers Honey Walnut Shrimp made with fresh tempura shrimp, wok-tossed in honey sauce and topped with glazed walnuts. It received the MenuMasters Award for Best New Menu Item of the Year.

Panda Express is part of a trend of national restaurants and retailers locating in Grand Island.

Regional and national businesses are looking at Grand Island as the community’s population nears 50,000 within the city, Cindy Johnson, president of the Grand Island Area Chamber of Commerce, said previously.

“They look for a community that shows signs of growth and that has an available market,” she said. “We would much rather be on the list of communities that are growing, whether that is population or sales potential, than be on the list of communities that are not considered a good investment because there is no market here.”

Panda Express started 30 years ago when Andrew Cherng from the Yangzhou region of China came to the United States. Cherng and his father, Master Chef Ming-Tsai Cherng, started the first Panda Inn restaurant in Pasadena, Calif.

After the success of Panda Inn, Cherng opened the first Panda Express in 1983. The restaurant in the Glendale Galleria in California pioneered a new concept in quick-service Chinese food.

Panda Express expanded outside California in 1987 by opening a location in Honolulu. By the time Panda Express celebrated its 10th anniversary, it had opened its 100th restaurant.

Nation’s Restaurant News recognized Panda Express in 1994 as one of its first-ever “Hot Concepts” honorees.

In 2007, Panda Express opened its 1,000th location in Pasadena, Calif., and achieved $1 billion in revenue for the first time. Panda Restaurant Group was ranked No. 1 by QSR Magazine in the Asian quick-service category in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007.

The company opened its first international location in Mexico City in 2011 and continues to grow with 1,575 restaurants in 48 states.

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