CPK is known for its adjacency to malls, which have suffered greatly in recent years. In August 2020, Coresight Research estimated 25 percent of U.S. malls will close in the next three to five years. Most of the at-risk venues are B, C, and D-rated malls that bring in much less revenue than A or A++, but higher-end locales have proven to be vulnerable, as well. Last year at this time, real estate analytics firm Green Street estimated the values of A-rated malls dropped 45 percent from 2016 levels.
But not all news surrounding malls is negative. INRIX, a transportation data company, published a study last summer stating mall visitors were exceeding pre-pandemic levels by 5 percent in June compared to January 2020. Bob Pishue, a transportation analyst with INRIX, told U.S. News & World Report that, “Malls aren't dead, and malls aren't dead especially in big cities."
CPK is taking a similar stance.
“The malls that are investing in the business, investing in technology, allowing delivery from the malls,” Minardi says. “The mall industry has had to also adjust a little bit to the pandemic. So I think that we know them and some of them are doing a great job and so we hope to partner with them also soon.”
The pizza concept plans to keep California and the Southwest for company-led growth, and leave the rest of the U.S. for franchisees. Minardi says the search for operators will be meticulous, and that the chain will be guided by three business profiles—families, multi-brand companies missing a casual-dining brand, and larger private equity companies looking for big chunks of a state rather than just a city.
After opening about a half-dozen restaurants in 2021, CPK expects to raise that total to 10 to 12 this year, with debuts in Chile, Costa Rica, Nigeria, and Canada. On top of that, the plan is to add two domestic franchisees.
Minardi says that by going through the restructuring process, CPK has “managed to really reposition and clean up the system and the portfolio in order to now be very aggressively in line to do what we need to do.” That includes a bigger investment in marketing, such as becoming the official pizza of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
More menu innovation is on the way, too, with the piloting of a new Lunch Duo menu (entree paired with soup or salad) in Southern California. As part of the offering, the brand created two salads, two soups, and three sandwiches, and the chain is allowing guests to select from the entire pizza menu instead of the usual four options, BBQ Chicken, Pepperoni, California Veggie, and Mushroom Pepperoni Sausage. Along with that test, CPK will explore more menu items in the breakfast and brunch space later this year.
Minardi says COVID and the bankruptcy proceedings were “painful,” but also worthwhile, as the chain returns to its true growth potential.
“I think we are now back on the forefront and we have our strategies that hopefully we can execute,” Minardi says. “But yeah, we're very excited. We just hope that this pandemic will start to take a back seat so we can really push harder because I think we have quite a lot of activities in the pipeline.”