Panda Restaurant Group Inc., a privately held company operating Panda Express restaurants, has invested in Pieology last month and Just Salad earlier this month at about 111 outlets combined. Panda Express execs say they plan to make additional minority-stake investments in growing fast-casual chains to leverage new real estate and expanded customer demographic opportunities.

 

Panda Express restaurant

Founded in 2011 by Carl Chang, Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.-based Pieology is a fast-casual pizza concept with 84 units and others in development.

Just Salad, which was founded in 2006 by Kenner and Rob Crespi in Manhattan, has 27 restaurants and plans to open at least 5 more locations by the end of the year. Panda Restaurant Group’s move is not unlike that of other veteran chains Buffalo Wild Wings, which took a minority stake in PizzaRev in 2013.

Panda Restaurant Group, Inc. has also invested in Japan-based Uncle Tetsu, a bakery concept, YakiYan, a Taiwan-based Japanese barbecue concept, and Ippudo, a ramen-noodle shop, both of which will open their first locations in the U.S. this year.