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California Pizza Kitchen names new CEO amid C-suite shakeup

CEO Jim Hyatt is out, along with longtime culinary chief Brian Sullivan and two others. Board member Jeff Warne was named CEO and president.
California Pizza Kitchen exterior
California Pizza Kitchen exited bankruptcy in 2021 with plans to invest in franchising. / Photograph: Shutterstock

California Pizza Kitchen is shaking up its C-suite. 

Out at the sit-down pizza chain are CEO Jim Hyatt, longtime culinary head Brian Sullivan, COO Brad Gramlich and SVP of Strategy Michael Mader, the company confirmed Thursday.

Jeff Warne, a CPK board member and the former CEO of Perkins, has taken the reins as CEO and president.  

The changes signal a new era for the 200-unit chain, which filed for bankruptcy and closed 31 restaurants in 2020 after years of sales declines. 

It emerged last October with plans to jump-start growth through franchising, a new direction for the mostly company-owned chain. It was also reportedly exploring an initial public offering.

“We are really in a good position right now to start sailing again with the brand,” said Giorgio Minardi, EVP of global development and franchise operations, in an interview last year.

It will continue this new chapter without some of its most seasoned executives.

Sullivan joined the chain in 1988, when it was just 3 years old, as a kitchen manager and took over culinary development about six years later, according to an interview in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. He helped shape the brand’s innovative take on pizza and more recently pushed the menu even further with the launch of CPK’s first burger.

Gramlich, meanwhile, had been with CPK for nearly 25 years. He started in the support center in 2000 and ascended through the HR ranks to chief people officer in 2011, according to his LinkedIn. In 2020, he became COO.

Hyatt and Mader were both hired in 2018. Hyatt is a former CEO of Ruby Tuesday and Church's Chicken.

Warne was appointed to CPK’s board in January along with three others following the chain’s financial restructuring. He had previously been CEO and president of Perkins from 2012 to 2019. Before that, he was CEO and president of O’Charley’s and held C-suite positions at Pick Up Stix and TGI Fridays. 

He is also the founder and co-owner of Burger Republic, a Nashville-based burger chain, and until last year owned multiple Nothing Bundt Cake stores, per his LinkedIn.

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