The nearly 40-year-old casual-dining concept said it's 'boycotting' pizza as part of a new tongue-in-cheek marketing campaign.
In October—designated as National Pizza Month—California Pizza Kitchen will do something it's never done in its nearly 40-year history. And it has nothing to do with the wildly popular Italian dish.
The casual-dining chain will enter a new food segment via the West Coast Burger, which will roll out across company-owned stores on October 4. The item features Wagyu chuck and brisket, topped with melted cheese, Nueske's applewood smoked bacon, caramelized onions, tomato, pickles, lettuce, and house-made burger sauce sandwiched between two brioche buns.
The release is part of a tongue-in-cheek marketing campaign in which the brand is "boycotting" pizza during October. Customers who choose a non-pizza item throughout the month—i.e. salad, pasta, or the new West Coast Burger—will earn a free 7-inch pizza on their next visit. The deal is for CPK rewards members only.
More than 65 percent of CPK's sales come from non-pizza items.
“We love our California inspired pizza, and it will always be our first priority,” Scott Hargrove, executive vice president and CMO, said in a statement. “But we’re boycotting pizza this month because we know our non-pizza menu items don’t always get the same attention. We want guests to explore our menu and try something new. Whether it’s an original CPK salad like the Thai Crunch, an unexpected pasta pairing like our Kung Pao Spaghetti, or a fresh take on a traditional comfort food like our new ‘West Coast Burger’, there is so much menu creativity to explore.”
The classic pizza chain is in the midst of a comeback plan after falling into bankruptcy in 2020 due to pandemic pressures and external stressors from years prior. In late 2021, CPK announced it started a domestic franchise program for the first time. The concept plans to keep California and the Southwest for company-led growth, and leave the rest of the U.S. for franchisees. After approaching 300 locations globally in early 2018, CPK's overall unit count has dipped below 200, with about 150 in the U.S. The new goal is to return to approximately 300 restaurants and find 25 domestic operators.