Panda Express’s Meditative Experience

Jamie Burton, Opinion Writer

What is the best fast food restaurant? It depends on whether you want an easy answer or a truthful one. It depends on whether you value political-correctness or vulnerable honesty. It depends on whether you, as an individual, are capable of exploration, and capable of change. 

I suppose one could choose the safe route; one could say In-N-Out or Chipotle and be on their sheepish way. But the trailblazing figures of history did not break barriers nor change lives by taking the easy way out. When the controversial dust settles, and all is said and done, only one rightful heir to the fast food throne remains. One restaurant that goes by the simple name of Panda Express. 

Since its humble beginnings, Panda Express has put its investment in the customer, and not just through delicious dishes. This is what sets it apart from the competition. In-and-Out, Chipotle, and others all merely sell food. Panda Express sells peace of mind.

The magical experience begins with humble yet inviting interior design, accented by clean lighting and neutral colors, invoking a state of self-reflection within the customer as they enter through the sturdy double doors. Empowering proverbs decorate the slate walls, and give the consumer a meditative refuge from the stressors of the outside world. They lend the consumer a chance to step back, take a deep breath inward, and peacefully return to the experience at hand. Finally, as in school and life itself, the customer is faced with an impending test as the line ushers forward: the complex question of what to order. 

But herein lies the true intrinsic beauty of Panda Express: what you order simply does not matter. The champion emphasis is not on preselected mixtures, but rather personal growth and enlightenment. Every dish, from the door to the register, translates unique wisdom from a culture lost in time. From within the spiritual confines of the Orange Chicken and Honey Walnut Shrimp emerges the blissful opportunity to travel the world and back again, to find perspective and peace through curiosity. Each recipe brings a new story, and each flavor a new state of mind.

Upon checking out, a fortune cookie is included with your meal, free of charge. This is not by coincidence. So all I ask of you, is the next time you get that little cookie, after having a good chuckle at the fortune inside, try to go back and read it once more. Think about the clean lighting and the calming walls. Think about the short proverbs, and the temporary refuge they provide. Strive for new wisdom and new peace; strive for a new state of mind.

In the end, Panda Express is a good fast-food joint because of what it puts in the customer’s stomach. What makes it the very best is the lasting impact of self-reflection it leaves in the customer’s soul.