The pizza chain is offering patrons who order the burger till October 31 a free 7-inch pizza that can be redeemed on their next visit. The burger will be known as the West Coast Berger.

California Pizza Kitchen’s new launch

California Pizza Kitchen, the pizza chain with more than 200 locations, has decided to celebrate National Pizza Month by launching a burger called the West Coast Burger.
The pizza chain, in its promotion, is encouraging customers to forego the signature pizzas this October. If the patrons forego the chain's signature pizzas and order a West Coast Burger till October 31, they can get a coupon for a free 7-inch pizza that they can redeem during their next visit. The first burger launch from the pizza chain comes after nearly 40 years of serving customers their signature pizzas.

The pizza chain ‘boycotts’ its signature dish

California Pizza Kitchen's promotional move of urging customers to 'boycott' pizzas in favor of the new burger is a dig at the heavy focus on pizzas in spite of other dishes featured on the chain's menu.
As per data, around 65% of the brand's sales and revenue come from non-pizza menu items. The menu features salads, pasta, and main plates along with desserts and cocktails, and there are always upgrades and new launches to ensure that the pizza chain has something for every occasion and customer.
The 'boycott' promotion for the new West Coast Burger also rewards customers who ditch the pizza in favor of a salad, pasta, or other non-pizza dishes with a free pizza during their next visit.
Scott Hargrove, California Pizza Kitchen's EVP and chief marketing officer, said that the decision to 'boycott' pizza was taken to focus customer attention on non-pizza menu items. "We love our California-inspired pizza. But we are boycotting pizza this month because we want customers to try something new," he said in a press release. Hargrove encouraged customers to try the West Coast Burger, their fresh take on traditional comfort food. He also suggested opting for their salads like Thai Crunch or menu items like Kung Pao Spaghetti, as 'there is a lot of creativity to explore.'

Know more about the new burger and free pizza

The pizza chain has rolled out a burger after nearly 40 years since its launch. The West Coast Burger was launched at all locations on October 4 after a successful pilot test. It is the first ever burger to be offered by California Pizza Kitchen in its nearly 40-year history. The burger patty is a blend of Wagyu, Chuck, and brisket beef and is topped with Nueske's Applewood smoked bacon, melted cheese, caramelized onions, pickles, tomato, lettuce, and in-house burger sauce and packed in a brioche bun.
The company is also offering a free 7-inch pizza if you place an order for a non-pizza entree till October 31. If customers also want to enjoy the free pizza after trying out the West Coast Burger or any other non-pizza item, then they should be registered as a California Pizza Kitchen Rewards member. If you are not a rewards program member, then just download CPK Rewards, which is available on the iOS and Android platforms. You can also earn points and redeem them to get other exclusive perks all year long.

California Pizza Kitchen’s non-pizza menu items

West Coast Burger is just the latest in a long line of non-pizza menu items. In April 2022, the brand launched 19 menu items like Baja Crunch salad or Wild Mushroom and Brie Soup, which are not items you may find at a pizza chain. EVP Hargrove said the decision to introduce avant-garde menu items is to put a spotlight on dishes like the California Caprese Sandwich with lemon herb vinaigrette or the Catalina Chicken Sandwich with goat cheese. The brand has added these new sandwiches to its Lunch Duo lineup, and they can be paired with a salad or soup.
California Pizza Kitchen also launched their own alcoholic beverages with a distinct California vibe, like gin-based cocktails like Oceanside and Big Sur, in partnership with California-based Gray Whale Gin. They have also come up with two lemonades inspired by the Californian vibe for the non-alcoholic menu.

California Pizza Kitchen’s bankruptcy fight

The recent new launches are part of California Pizza Kitchen's comeback plan after facing bankruptcy in 2020. The brand hired Giorgio Minardi as executive vice president for franchise operations and global development in 2019. Looking at Restaurant Trends, they had also intended to launch their first-ever domestic franchise program.
But months later, the pandemic struck, and the pizza chain was one of the worst hit due to the global catastrophe. The dine-in sales dropped 77% in the final week of March 2020, and the chain had to shut down nearly 50 stores as they did not have off-premises facilities.
Just four months later, the brand was facing bankruptcy, caused not only by the pandemic shutdowns but also by increasing competition in the fast-casual dining sector and the speeding up of third-party delivery services. California Pizza Kitchen was already facing liquidity issues and had explored merger and acquisition opportunities. After a failed sale bid, the company restructured by removing near-term maturities and reducing its roughly $400 million in debt by more than half.
In November 2020, the pizza chain hired Judd Tirnauer, who has 25+ years of experience in progressive finance and strategic planning, as the CFO. The company also upgraded its marketing efforts and improved off-premises measures and menu innovation, which saw sales come back to pre-pandemic levels by 2021.

California Pizza’s kitchen’s new franchise program

California Pizza Kitchen is now expanding on the domestic franchise program, which was first announced in late 2021. According to the plan, the brand will focus on company-led growth in California and the Southwest and have franchisees for other regions in the United States.
The pizza chain had nearly 300 locations in 2018, but the pandemic and bankruptcy reduced that number to below 200, with around 150 in the United States. The company now plans to return to the number it had in 2018 and is searching for 25 domestic operators.
The franchisees will have an option of four layouts- the flagship design with an area of 5,800 sq ft or more that features an extended bar and an outdoor patio; the standard prototype of a 4,800 sq ft area with a counter bar; and the final two are a kiosk version for malls, business centers, and parks and an express model for concession-style service in stadiums and universities.
Before the pandemic, the pizza chain wanted to focus on Business Growth and building 4,800 sq ft restaurants, said Minardi. But now the company has changed its plans to focus on expanding via kiosks and express models'. EVP Minardi also said that the restructuring has helped the chain to reposition and clean up the portfolio and system and has let the chain return to its true growth potential.
After opening about six restaurants in 2021, the brand is planning to open another four to six restaurants in countries like Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, and Nigeria. The company has plans to open at least 300 new stores around the world in the next 10 years.

Know more about California Pizza Kitchen

California Pizza Kitchen was launched in 1985 in Beverly Hills with a Restaurant Food menu of gourmet California-inspired pizzas and other items. Today, the brand has around 200 locations in the United States and 10 other countries.
The pizza chain saw around $490 million in sales in 2021, and non-pizza items accounted for over 65% of sales. The recent promotion for the newly launched West Coast Burger is the latest in line to focus on the variety of salads, entrees, pasta, desserts, and cocktails they serve.