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

Panda Express CEO says motiviational forums make his company successful

ByABC News
April 15, 2011, 6:50 PM

April 18, 2011— -- Even though Panda Express is the biggest Chinese fast food chain in the United States, the company's founder and co-CEO said the secret to its success isn't in its tasty orange chicken sauce, but in early morning hikes, Zumba routines and sometimes a good cry.

"When you do life a certain way, it's bound to give you a higher level of probability to succeed and that's what we preach," said Andrew Cherng, the founder and co-CEO of Panda Express.

Every few weeks on Saturdays, Cherng hosts forums at the Panda Express headquarters outside Pasadena, Calif., where his employees dance through Zumba routines, and then participate in a motivational self-help session.

He said he getting people to "change the way they see things" was the most important part of his job.

"I think the biggest thing about Panda is that people that care about what they do," Cherng said.

Over the years, Cherng developed a mandatory four-point action plan for his employees, which he dubbed "The Panda Way." It includes exercise for a healthy lifestyle, continuous learning, developing others and acknowledging others.

"When you have the right habits, okay, certain good things will come to you and that's what life is about," he said.

Cherng's workplace belief system may seem unorthodox but the CEO is something of a self-help addict. He has done several different training seminars with his groups, including Life Academy and Dale Carnegie programs.

"Different training at different time," he said. "The totality is that life is about sort of a buffet of learning and some things that works better for others, different people, so we have an array of things."

His current favorite is Landmark Education, the personal training and development company. Landmark is known for its controversial human potential seminars, which call for participants to experience a personal transformation by revealing and creating a new meaning of life.