Panda Restaurant Group Gamifies Lunar New Year Promo

Kevin Holmes, Executive Director of Marketing Communications at Panda Restaurant Group, dishes on the Good Fortune Arcade. Plus, what tech Panda is testing now to meet customers' need for speed and convenience.
Anna Wolfe
Senior Editor - Restaurants
Anna Wolfe  profile picture

Just in time for Lunar New Year, which begins today, HT caught up with Kevin Holmes, Executive Director of Marketing Communications at Panda Restaurant Group, about its 2022 Lunar New Year promotion and why every year the brand, founded by Chinese immigrants, continue to be educate the masses about Chinese culture. This year, Panda developed a web-based game that allows players to learn and earn exclusive rewards.

HT: Would you explain why are these promos important to Panda Express?

Kevin Holmes, Executive Director of Marketing Communications at Panda Restaurant Group: As a family-owned business founded by Chinese immigrants, we have a unique role of being a culture ambassador through food and storytelling. Panda Express is often the first taste of Chinese culture and food for many people. We are honored to introduce many of our guests to our customs and cuisine and help them cultivate cultural understanding and appreciation. Lunar New Year is an important way for us to share a bit about who we are as a company and what we stand for. 

HT: Tell us about this year’s promo:

Holmes: Every year, Panda Express celebrates the first day of Lunar New Year, also known as celebration day, in-store by passing out customary lucky red envelopes that include special rewards and promotions. Each envelope is meant to share good fortune with our guests for the new year.

This Lunar New Year, in addition to receiving a redeemable coupon inside of their red envelopes on February 1, each guest will receive a lucky fortune card inspired by the meaning behind several lucky dishes at Panda. Panda’s signature lucky dishes include Orange Chicken (orange for prosperity), Honey Walnut Shrimp (representing happiness), Chow Mein (symbolizing longevity) and Egg Rolls (resembling wealth).

We developed the Good Fortune Arcade on, an 8-bit game experience that allows players online to go through levels collecting lucky foods and learning about their meaning, unlocking exclusive rewards for free entree items and Family Meal discounts along the way.

Our hope with this experience is that it will make even more Panda Express fans engaged, educated, and hungry to share good food with those they love in a fun and playful way.

Panda takes pride in being a cultural bridge builder to those who may be unfamiliar with the holiday, so to extend this in-store experience, we wanted to create an authentic and inclusive way to bring people together over good fun and good food, virtually.
Kevin Holmes , Executive Director of Marketing Communications at Panda Restaurant Group

HT: Where was the game developed?

Holmes: The game was created in partnership with our creative and advertising agency, The Many. Along with VTProDesign, an award-winning experience design studio, we produced a unique storyline and retro look and feel for the Good Fortune Arcade.

HT: What tech are on Panda Express’ near-term to-do list? 

Holmes: Over the past two years, we’ve invested heavily in digital and revamped our website and app for a more seamless and better guest experience. We have been testing a program called Kiosk in a Pocket, which uses geofencing to let guests jump the line when they order via the app while in or by the store. This is just of the many initiatives we’ve put in place to fill our guests’ need for speed and ease.

In our stores, Panda is currently rolling out automated woks to help associates prepare the heavier and large volume items like Chow Mein with comfort and ease.. The goal is to reduce the physical strain involved in food preparation to better protect our cooks’ physical well-being while also creating more time and space for our teams to focus on serving our guests and other important aspects of running a restaurant.