The industry veteran replaces Jim Hyatt, who ran the company for nearly five years.
California Pizza Kitchen announced board member Jeff Warne will become the new CEO effective immediately.
He will replace Jim Hyatt, who served as CEO and president since 2018. CPK, with more than 180 restaurants across 10 countries and U.S. territories, did not specify why it made the leadership change.
“We are thrilled to have Jeff in the CEO role at this incredible brand,” Michael O’Donnell, California Pizza Kitchen Board of Directors chairman, said in a statement. “He is a proven leader with deep restaurant experience who understands the CPK business and its innovation DNA. He is uniquely positioned to take CPK to its next phase of growth and has already had a huge impact on the organization. We look forward to supporting him as he continues to bring to life his vision.”
Warne joined CPK's board in November 2020, and brings more than 23 years of experience to the chief executive role. He previously worked as president and CEO of Perkins Restaurant & Bakery, Marie Callender's, and O'Charley's, in addition to president of Pick Up Stix, COO of TGI Fridays, and CFO of Carlson Restaurants Worldwide.
The new CEO is also part of the board of directors for The Nashville Food Project and formerly served on the board for Second Harvest Food Bank in Tennessee. He holds an MBA from the University of Chicago, a bachelor's degree from St. Cloud State University, and is a Certified Public Accountant (inactive), and Chartered Financial Analyst.
The C-suite shakeup comes amid an up-and-down COVID journey for CPK. When restrictions came down in March 2020, the chain's dine-in sales dropped nearly 80 percent and roughly 50 stores temporarily closed. In July of that year, CPK declared bankruptcy, citing reasons beyond just COVID, like growing competition of fast casuals, the limitations of malls, and the acceleration of third-party delivery. After not receiving qualified bids for a sale, the pizza chain restructured its $400 million debt and removed near-term maturities. At one point, CPK was reportedly considering an IPO.
In late 2021, the brand revealed it was engaging in domestic franchising for the first time in history, offering a 5,800-square-foot flagship prototype, a 4,800-square-foot standard design, kiosk for nontraditional locales, and an express model for concession-style ordering.
The chain said its maintaining "strong pre-pandemic" sales levels thanks in part to investments in CPK Rewards, menu innovation, improvement in the digital guest experience, and recent openings across the world, like Canada, India, Chile, and Costa Rica.