Panda Express to open several Wichita sites, including a possible two this year

WICHITA — Panda Express now confirms what Have You Heard? first reported was a possibility in September.

The national chain is making its first foray into the Wichita market with four to six restaurants in the next two to three years.

“We’d love to open our first one this year — two if we can,” says Susan Flesher, the chain’s senior regional real estate manager.

The company, based in Rosemead, Calif., has 1,300 sites serving Chinese food in a fast-casual style nationally.

Flesher compares Panda Express’ format to Chipotle, where diners first select a starch — steamed or fried rice or chow mein — and vegetables followed by two to three entrees.

Entrees consist of traditional Chinese dishes like kung pao chicken, sweet-and-sour pork and beef and broccoli.

Orange chicken is “kind of our signature dish,” Flesher says.

The chain likes locating in freestanding buildings with drive throughs and at building end caps near where a Wal-Mart, Target, Lowe’s or Home Depot is located.

“Right now we’re really looking for end caps,” Flesher says.

She’s working on the first two sites now, one on the east side and one west.

Leisa Lowry with J.P. Weigand & Sons is representing Panda Express.

Flesher says the chain is particularly active with schools and children’s groups in each of the markets it’s in through a program called Panda Cares.

“We give back to the community,” she says. “Panda Cares is a big deal for us.”