The full-service, 175-seat Panda Inn restaurant in Ontario, Calif., has been reimaged with a dramatic, contemporary design. The 7,500-square-foot freestanding space, 1 of 6 Panda Inn locations in Southern California, features distinct dining rooms and a long central corridor that San Francisco-based design firm Tesser transformed into visual depictions of Chinese festival celebrations.

Earthy, soft colors and natural materials were used throughout to reinforce the peaceful purity of the Chinese culture and a mix of striking shapes and highly saturated colors punctuate the joyful, positive feelings of festivals for Panda Inn guests, according to Tré Musco, Tesser CEO and chief creative officer.

Distinct design elements were employed to bring three tradtional elements to life:

  • Lantern Festival. Red walls and large lanterns, custom made in China, hang from the ceiling.
  • Moon Festival. Graphic imagery on dividers depict a full moon, glass globe ball lights, multiple balls and fiber optic lighting to mimic the moon, earth and stars in orbit.
  • The Buddha. Wall-sized imagery of a sitting Buddha with natural wood lighting features to represent meditation and the balance of the holistic self.

The long central corridor that leads to all of the dining rooms and the bar was transformed into a dramatic gold Moon Gate with a series of circular openings, which often symbolize good luck in Chinese culture. "The final transformation for Panda Inn really was a metaphor for sprituality — going from dark to light and establishing a new and authentic identity," notes Musco. Elements from the new design will be incorporated into other Panda Inn units when possible, according to the company.

Panda Inn is part of Rosemead, Calif.-based Panda Restaurant Group, which
is also parent to the 1,500-unit Panda Express fast-casual chain and 27-unit
Hibachi-San QSR Japanese grill concept.