Pasadena, California-based Panda Express, the largest chain of Chinese quick service restaurants in the US, has announced the roll-out of the first-ever kids meal program in the concept's 19-year history.

The new meal option, to be launched on 24 March in mall locations, will include a drink and an option of rice or noodles to complement an item of choice from the menu. There is also a special kids-focused fortune cookie with fortunes like, "Your mom is probably right". The company has plans for a nationwide roll-out in April.

"Since families make up about half of the Panda Express customer base, we think it's important to let kids know they are special at Panda Express. This is just for them, they don't have to share with their parents," said Vicki Gelberg, VP of marketing for parent company Panda Restaurant Group. "This new concept allows Panda to share a little bit of its culture with its younger customers."

Panda Express will also give out a "Panda Kids" newsletter filled with games and activities with each kids combo. Each issue of the newsletter focuses on a different educational topic relating to pandas and other endangered animals, Asian culture and the environment.

"In talking with parents, we understood that kids lost interest very quickly with toys that came from standard kids meals," said Gelberg. "On the ride home, it was just another thing lying around in the car. We want the Panda Express kids experience to be fun and at the same time educational."