Workers Reveal What It's Really Like To Work At P.F. Chang's

Your first memory of P.F. Chang's is probably the giant horses standing guard in front of many locations — a genius marketing decision made even before the rise of social media — but what actually sets the Chinese restaurant apart from other chains is the handmade, wok-cooked concept that still drives all 300+ P.F. Chang's locations around the world today. From Chang's Spicy Chicken and Hand-Folded Crab Wontons to Signature Lo Mein and Kung Pao Brussels Sprouts, if there's anything on a Chinese American menu you're a fan of, you'll find it here. And while you'll pay more than you would at your corner takeout spot, you aren't likely to regret it.

While P.F. Chang's has been a fan-favorite since the first restaurant opened in 1993 as a clever collaboration between two already successful restaurateurs, it's fair to wonder how enjoyable the experience is for those employed by the successful brand, both behind the scenes and on display in the dining room. To find out, we went straight to the sources themselves — the actual employees of P.F. Chang's. Workers have revealed what it's really like to work at P.F. Chang's, from scheduling and pay to management and coworkers, with tips and suggestions between. Mashed did all the digging, in case you're just curious, or considering applying yourself.

It's not too hard to get hired at P.F. Chang's

If you are reading this because you're considering a gig at P.F. Chang's, there's at least one bit of very good news for you: You won't have to jump through many hoops to land a position here. In fact, it sounds like you won't have to do much at all beyond the bare minimum of submitting an application and extending the most basic interview courtesies.

For a hostess position, one anonymous employee told Glassdoor that she applied online before interviewing with a laidback manager who asked only generic restaurant industry questions and was hired on the spot. In a YouTube interview for, a former food runner agreed the P.F. Chang's interview included only the most basic questions, and a Reddit user confirmed those questions didn't include much more than how long she'd been serving and why she wanted the job. 

If you're still concerned and looking for some advice on interview performance, an anonymous Glassdoor reviewer said it doesn't take much more than showing up early and presenting a clean-cut appearance to get hired at P.F. Chang's. And on SimplyHired, an employee from Memphis, Tennessee, praised the company's willingness to at least interview almost anyone, regardless of work experience of personal background, so it should be beyond easy getting past the application phase.

Training could use some improvement

For those who do score a job at P.F. Chang's (which seems to be just about anyone who applies), the next logical step in onboarding is the training process. Unfortunately, current and former P.F. Chang's employees are considerably less enthusiastic about this aspect of job life than about the ease of applying and interviewing. Worse, it seems to apply to positions across the board, from servers to management.

A server in Brandon, Florida, who left the company a single star on SimplyHired, lamented that the difficulties of working at P.F. Chang's began right in the beginning with a lack of real training for opening a new location. Instead of being shown how to do tasks like sidework and opening or closing the store, new hires were essentially given two weeks of self-congratulatory propaganda from the company and left with little real preparation. For general training in stores that are already open, a Tucson, Arizona, hostess said there was still little hands-on training during the required period, and the official trainers don't even care. A former operations manager told Indeed that the situation is no better for management, describing the personal experience of having the 12-week management training program abbreviated to a mere two weeks before being set loose. And an executive sous chef in Dublin, Ohio, explained that the lack of manager training is due to serious short-staffing that encourages the company to get managers on the floor as quickly as possible, prepared or not.

Cross-training may be the key to happiness

Repeating the same tasks day after day can grate on just about anyone, and can lead from simple disinterest in showing up for work some days to total burnout. One of the best ways to avoid this in a workplace is to be cross-trained for work in multiple departments or areas, giving you a little change of pace, from tasks to teammates. Sometimes that's all you might need to reset and get through the day more easily. At P.F. Chang's, some employees say that's the best way to thrive in this restaurant environment.

A cook and dishwasher in Syracuse, New York, says P.F. Chang's is all for cross-training (via SimplyHired). If you're a hard worker, it shouldn't take much more than simply asking to be cross-trained in another area, and you'll be rewarded with a new experience. In fact, a P.F. Chang's hospitality manager in Dublin, Ohio, confirms that the company isn't just willing to cross-train, but they actively encourage it, implying that it may even lead to a promotion from within (per Indeed). Bringing the most practical advice to the conversation, a Maple Grove, Minnesota, employee self-reporting to be a backwaiter, server, wok cook, and assistant manager at P.F. Chang's says that cross-training isn't just a mental health tool, but allows you to pick up extra shifts in other departments you wouldn't otherwise be qualified to snag. And that can help fill out a paycheck, too. 

Some positions are cushier than others

If you decide to get cross-trained at P.F. Chang's, you are likely to discover that some positions here are just plain cushier than others. And before you suppose that being a manager or supervisor is always better than an entry-level position, that's not what we're referring to here. We're not interested in what's generally easier or harder, but in the nuances and responsibilities that make some positions better or worse for specific reasons.

From a purely cost-reward perspective, one former employee writes on Glassdoor that takeout is the ideal position at P.F. Chang's because these employees not only receive their regular pay, but snag a couple hundred dollars extra in tips they wouldn't otherwise receive. If you're someone who finds the public tiresome, though, and don't like your income being dependent on the whims of customers, a meat prepper in Baltimore, Maryland, says that position isn't exactly easy but is far more relaxing, removed as it is from both the customers and plenty of other staff (via CareerBliss). And a former employee who tried several front-of-house positions confirmed that servers were usually the most stressed out employees, but made the most money per shift (via Indeed). Overall, it seems that the positives and negatives of each role truly depend on the individual personality of the person performing them. And you have the ability to decide for yourself what sorts of tasks and environments you're willing to accept for the level of income you want.

Coworkers are the best part of working at P.F. Chang's

Bad hours, an overbearing boss, an annoying commute, monotonous tasks — there are plenty of factors that can make a job less than ideal. But perhaps nothing is more stressful or demoralizing than unpleasant coworkers. When you need to spend your entire day or shift with a select group of people, it not only helps to be surrounded by ones you actually like, but it can completely break your ability to perform if you're around those you don't. At P.F. Chang's, many employees say their coworkers weren't just good, but were the best part of working at the restaurant.

A former P.F. Chang's server in North Carolina wrote on Indeed that management could be hit or miss, but coworkers were generally supportive and the best part of the job. With some harsher words, another former server, this time from Goodyear, Arizona, echoed the failings of management while confirming that coworkers remained the best part of working (in fact, in this case, they were listed as the only good part of the job). So, what's so great about P.F. Chang's coworkers, beyond what we hope are some awesome personalities? One anonymous employee told Comparably that people were incredible team players. And a former customer service representative told Glassdoor the team dynamic at P.F. Chang's was amazing, leading to long-term friendships that lasted beyond employment at the restaurant.

Workers don't love pooling tips

We can't speak for everyone, but we believe we can say with some confidence that most of us are showing up to work for one primary reason — the money. Therefore, it's only natural that you're probably wondering how the pay stacks up at P.F. Chang's versus similar jobs, especially for servers. While plenty of restaurant workers gripe about grueling hours and grumpy customers but stick with the gig for the heaps of tips that can come in, we're not sure why P.F. Chang's servers stay, considering just how many of them hate the compensation policy.

Overall, P.F. Chang's employees give the compensation here a pitiful D grade, landing it in the bottom 20% of similar size companies on Comparably, with only 51% agreeing they are paid fairly. There appears to be one major reason why, at least with servers, and that's tip pooling, which means tips are combined and then evenly distributed among servers and additional support staff. One employee told Niche this was the only thing they'd change about the job, as money they personally earned through hard work was being given to others. And a former employee agreed that it disincentivizes working hard because those who earn most have to give it away (via Glassdoor). Chiming in on Indeed with some specifics, another worker claims that tip pooling reduces server and bartender wages by 25% to 50% of what they actually earned, and that sounds like enough to send anyone packing.

Management turnover makes life rough

Turnover is nothing new in the restaurant industry, or in just about any version of retail, and every cloud has its silver lining — so if you're a disgruntled employee who hates management, you may find new managers coming your way soon and things could get better. 

Unfortunately, while current and former employees at P.F. Chang's do report a hefty dose of management turnover, no one seems to benefit from the constant chaos of changing leadership that seems to plague so many locations. One server from Memphis, Tennessee, described having a handful of different managers in just two years at P.F. Chang's, and found most of them to be perhaps too young to know how to lead at all (via SimplyHired). Worse, another employee told Niche that they went through a whopping 10 managers in under two years, and the lack of a set hierarchy brought constant instability to the entire the staff. 

So, what's so bad about new management on a regular basis? A former server in Boca Raton, Florida, reported on Indeed that even though the managers themselves turned out great, the transition periods were difficult without solid leadership in place, and it happened five times in three years. Another former server noted that constant changes in management meant none of the store's long-standing issues were ever able to be addressed, with attention always resting on finding and training new management, leaving the team with the same old problems regardless.

P.F. Chang's is pretty flexible with shifts

In today's culture, more of us than ever are demanding flexibility in scheduling from our jobs, whether that's fluid hours, remote working, or other considerations. Most retail positions, including restaurants, have long advertised flexible scheduling in the traditional sense of shifts varying from week to week. Whether that's more of a benefit for the companies or the employees is worth considering, as it often turns into employees complaining they don't get enough hours after their first few weeks on a job, but most P.F. Chang's employees actually seem to benefit from the restaurant's flexible scheduling.

One server and bartender from Waco, Texas, raved on Glassdoor about the flexible hours at P.F. Chang's, adding that management is especially accommodating of school schedules, family emergencies, and granting requested days off. An experienced employee who was only so-so on the brand, leaving a three star review on Niche, agreed that management and supervisors were always willing to work with personal needs to create a very flexible schedule. Finally, another employee told Niche that P.F. Chang's uses an app called HotSchedules that makes it super easy to get shifts filled if you need to call out last minute.

The scheduling can also be unreliable

You didn't really think that employees were going to say everything about the P.F. Chang's schedule was perfect, did you? While the schedules prove to be flexible across the board at this restaurant, and we've already seen how appreciated that is by many of the staff, there are still those who seem to be catching the aforementioned downside of this practice. And according to their experiences, when it's bad, it's really bad.

At the least dramatic end of the spectrum, a former hostess from Westbury, New York, said the most difficult aspect of the job was balancing the constantly changing schedule (via Indeed). While we certainly see how that's annoying and can make life difficult to plan, it's also to be expected at a retail job and it's probably a good sign if that's the worst part of the gig. Less understandable is the experience of a host who says it's not just the hours that are inconsistent, but the job titles and responsibilities, putting employees in roles they weren't scheduled to perform and changing hours on the spot (per Glassdoor). Finally, one employee who loved the job overall and left a Niche review full of praise agreed that inconsistent scheduling was the only problem at P.F. Chang's. According to this employee, not only is the schedule not even published a week in advance, but hours fluctuate so dramatically that it can amount to a loss of $1,000 in monthly income with no notice.

Employees eat free family meals together

What's the number one thing most people want do in a restaurant? Eat! Even if you're forced to be there because, well, it's your job, you'd probably still rather be chowing down on some of the fine foods of the establishment than serving them to other people. And one awesome perk of P.F. Chang's that nearly all affected employees tend to rave about is the family meal offered twice a day at the restaurant.

Let's start with the most important part: According to a Chattanooga, Tennessee, employee, family meal is completely free, and it's offered both when the restaurant opens and closes (via Glassdoor). While a former prep cook from Huntsville, Alabama, who described stressful shifts followed by nice family meals with the same people who were just yelling and screaming earlier, may have meant it as a negative, there's still something sweet about ending the day enjoying a freshly cooked meal together (via Indeed). 

Workers get a discount at P.F. Chang's

Free food is obviously the best possible food perk, and we've already learned that P.F. Chang's offers it twice a day, once for its opening staff and once for the closers, but what about everyone else working throughout the day? Or days off? Never fear, there's a perk for both of those, too, and they come in the form of discounts.

A host in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, who doesn't like much about working for P.F. Chang's, does admit on Glassdoor that the food discount is one of the best parts of the job, and it comes at a decent 50% off. A former server in Salt Lake City, Utah, confirms the 50% discount, adding that food is only offered at half off during shifts, but is a welcome perk that makes the otherwise somewhat pricey food more reasonable. Shedding the most light on the subject, a hostess and server in Asheville, North Carolina, elaborates on in an Indeed review that the 50% discount is, indeed, only for employees on shift, but there is an additional 25% discount extended to employees off the clock, so they can always snag a decent discount whether they're working or not.

It's a very fast-paced environment

If you've recently found a job listing that didn't mention a fast-paced environment or culture, you should probably be playing the lottery. Just about every company uses some variation of this phrase today, but employees of P.F. Chang's describe an environment that's maybe a bit too fast for most.

From the most basic observations, a former P.F. Chang's prep cook said that there were always many things going on at once and it could be overwhelming for anyone without kitchen experience (via Indeed). Another cook agreed the kitchen pace could be completely exhausting and doesn't recommend the job to anyone looking for a first time position cooking in a restaurant. The hectic nature of P.F. Chang's isn't just limited to the kitchen, either. A former server and bartender from North Miami, Florida, says the shifts are full of impossible expectations facilitated by poor policies that leave no time to catch one's breath. And another former employee on Reddit agreed the extreme pace took physical tolls, though still praised the job as "surprisingly good."