Panda Restaurant Group named No. 1 Top Workplaces Nevada, large company

The best place to work in Nevada among the largest companies in 2021 is Panda Restaurant Group.

Doing business nationwide as Panda Express, Panda Inn and Hibachi-San, Panda Restaurant Group has 73 Nevada locations with about 900 employees in the category that recognizes companies of 500 or more workers.

“We have a really good leadership team in Nevada and in this particular year with the pandemic and everything happening in our industry, we were noticing last year that our associates were excited and enthusiastic about wanting to participate in employee-recognition programs,” said Panda Express Senior Program Manager Kay Asakura-Mendoza. “We’re still seeing the same trend this year.”

Being close to Panda Express-hub in California, Nevada has an engaged team, Asakura-Mendoza said. The company has increased benefits during the pandemic and that may be contributing to its top ranking, she said.

“We increased a lot of our pay,” Asakura-Mendoza said. “We had to close some of our stores, but we put safety first. We have a COVID task force that takes care of logistics in our operations. When the pandemic first hit, they were quick to act to make sure everybody had the right materials and plexiglass to keep our associates and guests safe.”

Appreciation pay gave associates an extra $2 an hour to anybody working through the pandemic. Panda pays 100 percent of earned wages up to 14 days for anyone exposed to COVID-19, Asakura-Mendoza said.

Some of the base pay without the $2 bonus in Las Vegas includes $17 an hour for assistant manager, $13 for shift lead, $15 for cooks and $13 for kitchen help.

“We made a lot of changes to the dynamics of how our associates felt safe and cared for,” Asakura-Mendoza said. “The feedback of what we were getting is how grateful our associates were. There was a different sense of appreciation for being not only employed in general but there’s a lot of people who said they didn’t have enough hours but ‘you kept my health benefits.’ They said they were able to ‘take care of my family even though I wasn’t working as many hours as I used to.’ We tried the most we could to not impact our associates.”

Panda touts its “whole-person” approach, which entails physical, mental and emotional well-being, according to Asakura-Mendoza.

Panda’s benefits package includes an annual learning fund and scholarship for eligible associates to help employees grow personally and professionally. That includes books and classes. Panda offers profit-sharing bonuses, stock options, employee perks.

“We have had a lot of managers in Nevada who have bought second homes because their bonuses are so big,” Asakura-Mendoza said.

There’s a total rewards package that includes medical, dental, vision, 401(k) match. There are benefits to allowing associates to take time off care for sick family members.

Panda has a Leave Share Program where associates can donate vacation hours into a pool to support fellow associates who are experiencing a loss of income due to health conditions, natural disasters and other hardships.

Panda Cares, the philanthropic arm of the business, promotes a spirit of giving and is dedicated to providing food, funding and volunteer services to children’s organizations, local schools and disaster relief efforts.

More than $107 million has been raised to support children in communities and fund worldwide disaster relief. Panda supports organizations that educate at-risk youth, promote academics and restaurant trade programs as well as donate to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals across the U.S.

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