What’s ahead for California Pizza Kitchen?
Its new CEO, G.J. Hart, isn’t talking, but analysts are speculating about store closures, smaller menus, and perhaps a greater emphasis on bar business. The chain went private this summer amid a still-tough environment for casual restaurant chains. CPK co-founders Larry Flax and Rick Rosenfield remain on the chain’s board, but their roles under the new ownership are unclear. The last time a private investment firm took over CPK, Flax and Rosenfield were shunted aside, so I’d imagine there’s some sensitivity to their involvement. From Nation’s Restaurant News:
[John Gordon, principal of Pacific Management Consulting Group in San Diego] said he was also concerned about the chain’s preference for mall locations. “I wonder if mall units are atrophying worse than freestanding or urban locations,” he said. “Mall traffic is down.” Securities analyst Conrad Lyon of B. Riley & Co. in Los Angeles, agreed, saying, “I tend to believe that the mothers that would take their kids to the mall has dropped and hasn’t really come back.” Describing CPK as “somewhat of a higher-end family diner,” Lyon said the chain might consider beefing up its appeal to families, such kids-eat-free deals on slow weeknights. However, he noted, “the thing that wins out more than anything these days is price. That’s still a key driving factor.”