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California Pizza Kitchen facts for kids

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California Pizza Kitchen, Inc.
Industry Food and beverage
Genre American Cuisine
Founded 1985; 38 years ago (1985)
Founders Rick Rosenfield
Larry Flax
Headquarters Los Angeles, California, United States
Area served
United States
South America
Western Asia
Key people
Jim Hyatt (CEO)
Products Pizzas, pastas, salads, small plates, and desserts
Services Polished casual dining restaurant
Owner Golden Gate Capital
Number of employees
Subsidiaries CPK ASAP

California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) is an American casual dining restaurant chain that specializes in California-style pizza. The restaurant was started in 1985 by attorneys Rick Rosenfield and Larry Flax in Beverly Hills, California, United States.


The California Pizza Kitchen chain is widely known for its innovative and nontraditional pizzas, such as the "Original BBQ Chicken Pizza", Thai Chicken, and Jamaican Jerk Chicken pizzas. They also serve various kinds of pasta, salads, soups, sandwiches, and desserts. They have an extensive children's menu for children ages 10 and under which includes a variety of different pizzas, pastas, salad, and chicken.

The chain has over 250 locations in 32 U.S. states and 10 other countries, including 15 California Pizza Kitchen nontraditional, franchise concepts designed for airports, universities, and stadiums.

CPK's brand is licensed to a line of hand-tossed style, crispy thin crust, gluten-free crust, and small frozen pizzas for sale in supermarkets. The brand was originally licensed to Kraft in 1999. The license was assigned to Nestlé after it purchased Kraft's pizza lines in 2010.


California club pizza
A California Club pizza from CPK

In 1985, Flax and Rosenfield pooled $200,000 in bank loans and savings along with $350,000 invested from friends to lease space on Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills, California. The first menu, including the famous BBQ Chicken Pizza, was developed by Ed LaDou, then the pizza chef at Wolfgang Puck's Spago restaurant. CPK became an immediate success, and the company expanded throughout Southern California. By 1992, there were 26 CPKs.

Flax and Rosenfield served as co-CEO and co-Chairmen of CPK from 1985 through to 1996, and then again from 2003 to 2011.

In 1992, PepsiCo paid nearly $100 million for 67% of the chain, with Flax and Rosenfield each receiving $17.5 million. At the time, this was thought to be more than CPK was worth, and PepsiCo pushed to expand faster. CPK opened 15 stores in 1993, and then 28 more in the following year. This rapid expansion plan was a disaster. PepsiCo had invested tens of millions of dollars and quickly slowed expansion, and moved to cut costs. PepsiCo executives had started cutting corners by replacing fresh ingredients with frozen vegetables and cheese (a change Flax and Rosenfield reversed later).

In 1997, the private equity firm Bruckmann, Rosser, Sherrill & Company bought out PepsiCo's two-thirds stake with the intention of taking CPK public in 2000, pushing for expansion to resume. Veteran restaurant executive Fred Hipp was hired to run CPK with an aggressive expansion plan, including 18 new stores in 2002, 22 in 2003, and 28 in 2004. The expansion was to be carried out by former Brinker International Vice President Tom Jenneman, under the title of Chief Development Officer. Flax and Rosenfield remained on the board, but had no day-to-day control.

In early 2003, CPK reported a 16% increase in profits, with Hipp telling analysts that CPK was in excellent financial condition. In a March 25, 2003 press release, CPK cut its first-quarter earnings estimates, which did not make sense given the positive forecast laid out just a few weeks earlier. Rosenfield investigated the numbers and discovered the positive earnings numbers Hipp had been touting were masking difficult quarters ahead. An emergency board meeting was called, Hipp and Jenneman were fired, and Flax and Rosenfield resumed control of CPK.

In 2011, CPK was acquired by an affiliate of private equity firm Golden Gate Capital, and G. J. Hart was named president, chief executive officer, and executive chairman.

CPK started serving Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) certified gluten-free pizzas, available across all CPK locations, excluding franchise locations, in 2013.

In 2014, CPK started rolling out their "Next Chapter" locations, with modernized interiors and updated menus.

In 2018, CPK added Cauliflower Pizza Crust to its menu nationwide.

In July 2020, CPK filed for bankruptcy due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Countries of operation

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