Panda Express Case Study
Empowering the Guest Experience with Online Ordering
As the largest Asian segment restaurant chain in the United States, with more than 2,000 locations, Panda Express executives recognized a shift in customer’s preferences and expectations regarding convenience. Four years ago, they began searching to find the right solution to help the brand increase sales, reach new guests and improve access.
The decision to develop an online ordering platform for Panda Express was a way to meet several core objectives including: streamlining processes, customizing experiences, and ensuring cross-channel consistency all while being reflective of the brand.
A top priority for Panda Express’ online ordering experience was to mirror the appetizing visual experience that customers have in-store.
“One of the big appeals to our guests is that they can see all the food when ordering in-store,” said Dave Wallinga, Panda Express vice president of marketing. “We were trying to create that same experience through online ordering, which required us to carefully consider what that looks like on a desktop versus phone. We wanted to be sure to find the right balance for each platform.”
In addition, Panda Express’ online ordering needed to be fast, intuitive, and have full integration with its Xpient POS system, which not a lot of online ordering providers had at the time.
NovaDine was selected as the online ordering partner as they could meet all of Panda Express’ goals and after a pilot test, was rolled out system-wide in May 2014. One reason for choosing NovaDine was the ability to customize the platform to meet the unique needs of Panda Express.
NovaDine’s full API provides Panda Express with complete control over the guest experience. In addition, the feature set includes catering and group ordering, which was also a priority for Panda. NovaDine could provide Panda with automatic, real-time menu pricing and item availability updates directly from the POS.
For a system of Panda Express’ scale, being able to automate processes on the back-end is vital. The NovaDine system integrates with Panda Express’ web service to manage store-specific data including location information, hours, local menu differences and pricing, ensuring they are up-to-date and accurate.
“It’s a large task and can become complex quickly,” Wallinga said.
Efficiency and streamlining the guest ordering process is a top priority for the Panda Express online ordering experience. The NovaDine system provides frictionless order fulfillment by giving guests control over when their order is ready — diners can select “ASAP” or a specific time.
Panda is currently testing a NovaDine-developed “I’m running late” function that allows guests who have already placed an order to alert the restaurant that they need to delay prep of their food.
Since partnering with NovaDine, Panda Express has increased its online presence, reaching a new base of guests by offering digital ordering across desktop, mobile web, and native mobile apps. Online ordering has increased nearly 300% from 2015, building a registered guest base of more than 3.6 million and an average ticket two times greater than in-store checks.