P.F. Chang's heads to China to serve American-style Chinese food

  • The concept "actually resonates" with the Chinese, says P.F. Chang CEO Michael Osanloo.
  • "They love the concept that it's an American bistro, serving some of their favorite American dishes for an American-style palette," he says.
  • The company plans to open six to eight restaurants in the U.S., and an additional 14 to 16 restaurants globally by the end of 2018.

P.F. Chang's opened its first location in Shanghai with a twist. The concept: an American bistro serving Chinese-American dishes in the motherland, said P.F. Chang's CEO, Michael Osanloo.

"It is a little ironic that we're selling Chinese food to the Chinese," Osanloo told CNBC.

But the company's "Farm to Wok" brand, or fresh foods made from scratch, doesn't translate in China. "When we said that to [Chinese people], they said, 'Of course. How else would you cook food?'" he said Tuesday on "Power Lunch."

An American eatery in Asia, on the other hand, has a different appeal.

"They love the concept that it's an American bistro, serving some of their favorite American dishes for an American-style palette, which is heavy protein," Oslanoo said.

Since the restaurant recently opened in China's biggest city, the CEO said there has been tremendous traffic. The top three items on the menu are three of the top four dishes in the U.S., including chicken, lettuce wraps and shrimp.

"It just goes to show that the palette is not that different internationally," Osanloo said.

The design, however, is slightly different. Written in Chinese, the logo reads "An American Bistro," instead of the American version that says, "Asian Flavors." The menu is also unique, with only one image per dish and new technology that allows patrons to view various videos of the brand while dining.

The American restaurant chain got its start at a single mall outlet in Arizona during the 1990s, the heyday of malls.

Today, P.F. Chang's has more than 300 restaurants in 23 locations and generates more than $1.1 billion in system sales. The once-public company went private in 2012.

Despite tough times for malls in recent years, Osanloo said P.F. Chang's continues to work with A-level, or high-end, malls, including the one that houses the new Shanghai shop.

"The reason people go to malls is for entertainment and restaurants" he said. "We're on trend."

P.F. Chang's plans to open six to eight restaurants in the U.S., and an additional 14 to 16 restaurants globally by the end of 2018.

"We're doing quite well," Osanloo said. "We have plenty of cash flow generation to satisfy all of our crazy aspirations for growth and then some."