A new Panda Express location is expected to open on Bancroft Way, between Bowditch Street and Telegraph Avenue, in the spring or summer of 2023.
For campus senior Yongkang Li, news of the opening is long-awaited.
Li noted that the closest Panda Express location is in Oakland and has been hoping for an option closer to campus in Berkeley.
“I even complained to my friends about why Berkeley didn’t have one, as I was sure that a Panda Express would do well in Berkeley,” Li said in an email. “So I was quite surprised and happy to see a Panda Express to open next to campus.”
Although, UC Berkeley alum Klein Lieu recalled a time when the student community did not welcome a Panda Express location on campus.
Lieu noted that in both 2009 and 2013, students belonging to environmental advocacy groups, Asian American communities and other groups pushed back the franchise’s attempts to open on campus, citing sustainability practices and the “reductionist” menu that students felt did not capture the diversity of Chinese cuisine.
“I am terribly disappointed that the lobbying efforts of a corporation like Panda Express can ultimately wait out generations of student support against their arrival, and pounce at whatever opportune time they deem advantageous to their expansion,” Lieu said in a text message.
According to Panda Express Area Coach of Operations Kenny Huang, the Bancroft location will be looking to hire at least 30 positions, including associates for the front and back of the house. He added that the restaurant does not currently plan to join Snackpass but is open to seeking other ways to bring their food to the wider public.
Li said he expects the restaurant to have long lines during peak hours, similar to their other locations. He also hopes to see more affordable restaurant options close to campus and noted the limited number of “consistent and affordable” restaurants in Berkeley.
City councilmember Rigel Robinson mentioned in a tweet that the Panda Express is set to open in the historic “Fred Turner” building, designed by the late architect and UC Berkeley alumna Julia Morgan.
“New student housing is urgently needed in close proximity to campus, and so is orange chicken,” Robinson said in an email. “Fortunately, The Standard on Bancroft is providing both.”
Huang noted that Panda Express hopes to provide students with a quick and affordable dining option to accommodate various food preferences.
Once the location opens, Huang added, Panda Express will host community fundraising opportunities available for certain nonprofit organizations, as well as professional and personal development courses for associates employees.
“We are so thrilled to be opening here soon and grateful to serve the Berkeley community,” Huang said in an email.