US’ Panda Express says it’s black and white: eaterie bearing resemblance in China is fake

·2-min read

A restaurant named Panda Express in the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming has been closed for investigation after the American chain of the same name said it was unauthorised and infringed its trademark.

The US fast food chain, which serves American-style Chinese cuisine, said it would consider taking legal action, while the Kunming restaurant – which has an almost identical panda logo – was closed and the management of its landlord, Chenggong Seazen Wuyue Plaza, told news portal Thepaper.cn it was reviewing the outlet’s credentials.

The Chinese version’s listing on food review portal Dianping said its operations were suspended. The restaurant declined to take calls on Thursday from the South China Morning Post.

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In an official statement sent to the Post, Panda Restaurant Group – the US company – said: “This restaurant is not affiliated in any way with Panda Express and Panda Restaurant Group. We have trademarked the Panda Express name and likeness in China for use by Panda Restaurant Group.”

Chinese steamed egg served at Panda Express in Kunming. Photo: Dianping
Chinese steamed egg served at Panda Express in Kunming. Photo: Dianping

It said the group would “consider all legal actions” to protect its intellectual property rights.

On Monday, the China Cuisine Association had issued a notice on behalf of Andrew Cherng, co-founder and co-chief executive of Panda Restaurant Group, saying the Chinese outlet was an imitation and advising the public not to be misled.

Last week, there was excitement on Chinese social media as word spread that a Panda Express had been operating in Kunming for some time. On Dianping, some customers said they had visited it because they had enjoyed the chain’s food in the US, but others said the food was different.

Photos posted on Dianping showed that the Chinese restaurant’s panda logo was similar to that of the US chain, but the panda’s mouth differed and it bore the words “panda theme restaurant” instead of the American company’s “Chinese kitchen” or “gourmet Chinese food”.

Panda Express has 2,000-plus restaurants in the United States. Photo: Shutterstock
Panda Express has 2,000-plus restaurants in the United States. Photo: Shutterstock

Previously, management of the plaza had told Jiemian News that the restaurant was not a fake, and that the plaza had signed a contract with an intermediary, Shenzhen Xiguifu Catering Management.

Business information website Tianyacha showed that Shenzhen Xiguifu was established in 2018 and had a wide range of operations including investment consulting, catering equipment wholesale, catering services and beverage production.

The Shenzhen-based intermediary did not respond to requests for comment from the Post.

Founded in 1983, the real Panda Express has more than 2,000 restaurants in the US. It had revenues of US$3.5 billion last year, according to Forbes.

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