Restaurant Development & Design

FALL 2014

restaurant development + design is a user-driven resource for restaurant professionals charged with building new locations and remodeling existing units.

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2 0 • R E S T A U R A N T D E V E L O P M E N T + D E S I G N • F A L L 2 0 1 4 Peer to Peer we're able to move things out into the system fairly swiftly because the majority of our stores, at least domestically and excluding some licensed units in nontra- ditional venues, are corporate-owned. rd+d: What are some highlights of recent prototype design changes? TZ: For the new prototype, we worked very closely with our branding and marketing team to identify and embrace our brand identity and personality. What you'll fnd in our stores are natural and authentic fnishes and a vibrant, happy environment. For our Innovation Kitchen store, we're also testing, for the frst time, custom-designed furniture that we feel refects our unique American- Chinese brand essence. rd+d: How much of PRG's design and development work is handled in-house? TZ: While we do work with outside design consultants on specifc projects, we have a well-rounded in-house design team and do most of the creative brand work internally. We also have an extensive facilities team. Many other chains outsource facilities management, but we have more than a dozen facilities managers strategically located in all Panda markets across the nation who maintain our facilities and ensure that brand standards are upheld as our stores age. For construction, we have a team of project managers to support our unit opening schedules throughout the U.S. and in Canada, which is a company- owned market. We also have a team dedi- cated to strategic sourcing of FF&E and that provides design- and construction- related support to international franchisees and domestic licensees. rd+d: How are you meeting the challenges of construction and project management in the face of such rapid Panda Express unit growth? TZ: As we head into new markets, such as in the Northeast, we often have to fnd new local contractors but when- ever possible we work with companies in our preferred GC program. This is a select group that has done business with us, knows our brand and quality requirements, and can meet our needs with few or even zero change orders. For project management, it's all about communication, particularly between the triad of project manager, real estate manager and design manager. They col- laborate closely to ensure that whatever the design team is working on can be implemented in the feld without delay- ing the project. We do weekly status update calls and use project manage- ment software as our primary day-to-day information exchange tool. rd+d: What are the toughest challenges you face in the current environment? TZ: Keeping the cost and duration of construction down. The cost of materi- als and labor keeps going up as does the time required for permitting and doing due diligence. If you look at the development cycle now compared to even fve years ago, the complexity of the real estate deals and approvals processes has extended really beyond my under- standing, frankly. Five years ago, we had about a two-month timeline for permit- ting. Now, in many states we're looking at nine months. Another big challenge is keeping the cost of our FF&E pack- age down as we innovate and update our concept. The only way to do it is by strategically sourcing and getting a handle on economies of scale. It's a con- stant process of value engineering and perfecting our systems to stay fresh and relevant while also keeping our develop- ment costs down. rd+d: Sounds like a recipe for a few sleepless nights. TZ: Juggling such challenges while keeping up with the pace of our growth and keeping innovation at the forefront can defnitely keep me up at night, but it's a good thing. It's super exciting to be part of what's happening at Panda. We have a fantastic team, we're developing people and our brand beyond the U.S. borders. It's a great place to be. + The new Panda Express Innovation Kitchen concept store enables the chain to test new décor and menu items, including a specialty tea bar, custom-made furniture and made-to-order salads and wraps.

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