California Pizza Kitchen looks to sell stores to franchisees

The refranchising program is the latest step in the chain’s efforts to run fewer of its own restaurants.
California Pizza Kitchen exterior
California Pizza Kitchen has about 160 U.S. restaurants, 17 of which are franchised. / Photograph: Shutterstock

California Pizza Kitchen is looking to sell some of its restaurants to franchisees, part of a bigger push into franchising at the mostly company-owned pizza chain.

The refranchising program will target experienced multi-unit operators in select U.S. markets. The number and locations of the available stores are flexible based on the buyer's goals and preferences, the company said in an email. 

Transferring company-owned stores to franchisees should generate more profits for the company. CPK may also have a desire to get out of the business of running restaurants and hand the reins to experienced operators.

After all, the cost and complexity of operating restaurants is rising, and profits have been harder to come by. Franchising can insulate the franchisor from some of that volatility. 

At California Pizza Kitchen, sales rose 3.6% last year, according to Technomic, which is well below inflation. 

"We're tremendously proud of the progress we've seen with our franchise program, and we're eager to continue expanding our reach and to introduce CPK to more diners nationwide," said Giorgio Minardi, EVP of global development and franchise operations, in a statement. "As part of this next phase of growth and development, we're looking forward to partnering with experienced multi-unit restaurant operators that share our same commitment to excellence, innovation, and customer service that has fueled CPK's growth since its inception in 1985."  

California Pizza Kitchen began franchising in December 2021, viewing it as a path to growth outside of its core markets of California and Hawaii. The plan then was to find 25 operators to open 100 restaurants, starting with two operators and 10 to 12 new locations last year. 

That apparently did not pan out, as the chain currently has 17 franchised stores in the U.S., just two more than it had in 2021, according to Technomic data. These are in nontraditional locations like airports and stadiums.

According to CPK’s website, the chain is looking for franchisees across the country, with the exception of the Southwest and Hawaii, where it plans to continue running its own stores.

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