Q+A: CEO of Pei Wei on the Food & Bev Industry, Leading a Reboot, and How North Texas Has Enhanced Growth

When it came time to relocate Pei Wei operations last year, J. Hedrick says choosing Dallas-Fort Worth was a 'no-brainer.' Since, the company has underwent an overall brand shift—doing it all from the new headquarters in Irving.

Pei Wei CEO "J." Hedrick

Fast-casual, Pan Asian-inspired restaurant chain Pei Wei relocated in late 2017 to Irving from its previous headquarters digs in Scottsdale, Arizona, where it shared space and some employees with P.F. Chang’s China Bistro Inc.

The 18,000-square-foot base in Irving includes a research center—another name for a test kitchen—and enough space for CEO “J.” Hedrick to lead a reboot of the chain that produces roughly $300 million in annual revenue from its 225 locations in more than 20 U.S. states, South Korea, and the UAE. There are 38 Pei Weis in DFW alone.

In the Fall 2018 version of the Dallas-Fort Worth Real Estate Review, Hedrick took the time to discuss the move and the future of his company.

Tell us about Pei Wei’s operations that have relocated to Irving. How many people are a part of the relocation?

We signed a lease in Las Colinas Highlands office tower, located at 6191 N State Highway 161 in Irving, and relocated approximately 10 team members from our old Scottsdale HQ. In total, we’ve added approximately 70 jobs to our restaurant support center. Pei Wei was co-founded by Dallas restaurateur Mark Brezinski, so in many ways this is a return to our roots.

The move also allows us to forge our own identity from PF Chang’s. This is more than just a headquarters move: It’s really an overall shift in our brand direction. We’re separating operationally and geographically from our parent company.

In your site selection process, what tipped the scale in favor of the location in Irving?

When we began looking at potential locations, the DFW area stood out with all that it had to offer our team members, as well as being a great location given our restaurant base. When we began looking at specific areas within the region, the support and help we got from the City of Irving and the Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce made Irving a perfect spot for Pei Wei. We’re very grateful to Gov. Abbott and his staff for their help through the Texas Enterprise Fund. The relocation to a different city in a different state certainly makes it more real as we reformulate the brand, rather than staying put or moving down the street.

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How does North Texas fit into the needs of your employees?

I can’t think of a better place to recruit talent than North Texas. There are so many great colleges and universities here from which to draw young workers, and the area is obviously stocked with outstanding businesspeople at all levels. This has certainly been a significant cultural and organizational rebuild and shift for Pei Wei—all for the better.

Dallas-Fort Worth is known as a hub for the food and beverage industry. Describe how that influenced your selection process?  

Dallas-Fort Worth is, in many ways, a no-brainer for a company like ours. For starters, it’s our largest market, in terms of restaurant count—and, thanks to the two outstanding airports here and the central location, all of our locations are within easy access to us.

How does the region’s central location enhance your company’s operations and growth across the U.S. and abroad?

By moving to North Texas, we’ve gained an exceptional ability to travel, great access to talent, and a very business-friendly environment. We’ve found that the job market, the quality of applicants, and the specialized talent that exists in this area is very high. There are a large number of similar restaurant concepts and a large number of very qualified applicants to fill jobs. And from North Texas, our team can reach at least a third of our U.S. restaurants within a four-hour drive and all of our domestic restaurants within a four-hour direct flight from Dallas Fort Worth International Airport or Dallas Love Field.

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