- California Pizza Kitchen board member Jeff Warne will serve as chief executive officer, effective immediately, the chain announced Friday. Warne was made interim CEO of the chain in October, the company wrote in an email.
- Warne has served on the brand’s board since November 2020, when the chain was emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings with a lightened debt load.
- CPK has been targeting airports for growth, and began its domestic franchising program last December.
Warne, who has over two decades of restaurant and food experience, currently serves as the board chair of the Nashville Food Project and is co-owner of several Burger Republic restaurants in Tennessee. Warne also served as CEO at Perkins & Marie Callendars from 2012 to 2019, according to his LinkedIn. He has also held leadership positions in O’Charley’s, Pick Up Stix, TGI Fridays and Carlson Restaurants Worldwide.
Warne replaces outgoing CEO Jim Hyatt, who led the chain beginning in 2018. At the time, the chain was struggling with a high debt load forced on the company by the private equity firm controlling it, The Wall Street Journal reported. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, California Pizza Kitchen became one of the many casualties of the pandemic, filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in July 2020.
But the pizza chain pivoted toward off-premise business and slowly regained momentum through franchising in addition to international development in Canada, India, Chile, and Costa Rica. The company also recently opened a second location in the Los Angeles International airport to take advantage of the customer base afforded by the return to pre-pandemic levels of air travel. To boost its growth, CPK offers a variety of development options, ranging in size from a 750-square-foot concession counter to a 5,800-square-foot flagship location, according to its website.
This flexibility may make it easier for the chain to expand on Warne’s watch.
“He is uniquely positioned to take CPK to its next phase of growth and has already had a huge impact on the organization,” Michael O’Donnell, chairman of California Pizza Kitchen’ board of directors, said in the press release.