Panda Express: Self-Help Courses and Zumba Are Recipe for Success?

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Another benefit of the self-help seminars Cherng pointed out was they provide extra education to his workforce, which includes many immigrants and non-college graduates.

"A lot of our managers probably haven't even graduated from high school," he said.

On the weekend retreats, there was an astonishing lack of cynicism and a palpable sense of purpose -- not to mention a good number of hugs. When asked if any of his employees resented being told to participate, Cherng acknowledged that there are some gripes.

"A lot of people didn't want to," he said. "However, I can almost guarantee you that most everyone that goes, they change their mind. They may not go willingly, but after they come back they say, 'wow!'"

Despite being the king of Chinese fast food, Cherng said he usually stays out of the kitchen.

"I think the cooking is being done by many people better qualified than I," he said. "But I think what I'm doing is different cooking, isn't it? I'm cooking up some good chemistry."

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