WKU works to bring Panda Express to campus

Michael McKay

WKU is working to bring variety to campus with a new dining option — one that isn’t a chicken restaurant or a Mexican grill.

Panda Express, a Chinese fast food chain, is in the process of being brought to the Garrett Conference Center and is currently being planned to take the auditorium space above the food court. 

Bryan Russell, director of Planning, Design and Construction, said the new Panda Express will be open for the start of the new school year with a tentative date of Aug. 1.

“Suits me just fine,” Russell said. “I love Chinese food.”

Because the WKU Catering Group has moved to the Carroll Knicely Conference Center, the Garrett Food Court will expand out into area previously taken by Catering. Originally, Panda Express was going to move into the expanded Garrett Food Court.

Gary Meszaros, assistant vice president for Auxiliary Services, said the auditorium space will better serve Panda Express.

“It looks like because that space has been way underutilized by the University that they would rather put that in there permanently and give it a nice, big space,” Meszaros said. “It would just be another venue like Einstein’s or DaVinci’s or Subway. So it’s not exactly part of the food court, but it’s close.”

Meszaros said salespeople from Panda Express and ARAMARK must give final approval of the project before engineers and architects can survey Garrett.

“The goal is still Aug. 1, that they have that thing up and running,” Meszaros said.

The decision to add the Asian restaurant was made in part by a 16-week research process from ARAMARK called MarketMATCH, which reviewed the dining options on campus. Panda Express was one of the suggestions for campus that was made after the review.

Louisville sophomore Desireé Johnson said she loves Chinese food and eats at the Garrett Food Court almost every day.

“It would be nice to have one on campus,” Johnson said. “I usually go to the mall for one.”

Louisville senior Lusie Cuskey said she  isn’t opposed to the new Panda Express.

“It’s another option,” Cuskey said.

Cuskey said she would be at WKU for another year, “taking a victory lap” so she said she may eat at the restaurant.

“Theoretically, if I’m not in rehearsal all of the time,” she said.

Meszaros said getting the Panda Express program off the ground has been something WKU Restaurant and Catering Group has been working on for a while.

“That would probably be here, even if we didn’t do this whole Downing Center thing,” Meszaros said.