California Pizza Kitchen Comes to Airports Abroad | International franchise


With its emergence of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and $ 220 million less debt, California Pizza Kitchen is turning its focus on growth to expand the international footprint of franchises. About 46 of its 150+ restaurants are in seven countries outside of the United States, but so far the brand has not had a strategic plan to grow through the franchise.

“I am truly CPK’s first international employee,” said Giorgio Minardi, who was hired in late 2019 as executive vice president of global development and franchise operations. Drawing on his contacts at the Telepizza group based in Madrid, Spain, where he led his international franchise business, and his role as international president at Dunkin ‘Brands, Minardi said he has since built a team to support an expansion calculated abroad.

“Franchising is all I’ve done in my last 30 years,” he explained, often with “intensive growth” of 200 to 300 restaurants per year. “But opening a Dunkin ‘is a lot different than opening a California Pizza Kitchen. Opening a CPK is like opening 20 Dunkins.

This more demanding development process, which requires the training of a chef and chef at each site to run CPK’s menu from scratch, means its rate of growth is slower and, Minardi noted. , is one of the reasons why it has largely chosen to develop through the company’s units. so far. When Jim Hyatt was hired as CEO in 2018, bringing with him franchise experience as managing director of Church’s Chicken and Ruby Tuesday, management looked at alternatives to expanding the business.

“Franchising is now one of our main goals,” said Minardi, and internationally that includes opportunities at airports, environments in which, at least at a national level, CPK is performing “extremely well”.

“These are captive markets,” Minardi continued of CPK’s affinity for airports, where it has 12 restaurants in the United States and where its fresh and healthy brand position resonates with travelers.


Adriana Echandi is CEO of Morpho Travel Retail, the franchisee that brings CPK to two airports in Latin America.

California Pizza Kitchen will find out if this same appeal exists among travelers to Latin America when it opens its very first international airport restaurants at Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport in Santiago, Chile, and Juan Santamaría International Airport. from San José, Costa Rica. later this year after signing an agreement with Morpho Travel Retail. The Costa Rican-based specialty retailer is a subsidiary of Grupo Britt, which debuted in the coffee business in 1985 and today produces gourmet coffee, chocolate and specialty gift items. Morpho Travel Retail, meanwhile, has more than 175 stores in 11 countries, as well as a food and beverage division that operates the Brioche Dorée, Imperial Bar and Britt Café-Bakery concepts.

“We immediately fell in love,” Minardi said, in large part thanks to Morpho’s knowledge during the RFP process with local airport authorities. “It’s not an easy thing and you really need to have a winning team that has that experience.”

Leading the Morpho team is CEO Adriana Echandi, who helped set up the retail stores division for Grupo Britt and said CPK delivers the “perfect menu and innovation in dining” for adapt to different airports in Latin America.

“Our experience has shown us that passengers today consider their gastronomic experience to be a key point of their trip. Travelers value and expect high-quality, trendy food every step of the way, and airports are no exception, ”said Echandi. CPK aligns itself with the desires of travelers “especially since the concept is not available in their place of origin”.

Morpho Travel Retail is experienced in managing high volume operations with over 20 years of experience in managing stores and restaurants in airports and hotels, she noted, with teams of purchase, training, quality and operation established. The buying group, in particular, is crucial given the global supply chain issues brought on by the coronavirus pandemic and the inherent complexity of CPK’s menu.


Giorgio Minardi

“One of the biggest challenges is ensuring the quality and flavor of the products, especially in this case where we are talking about Californian cuisine which has very specific raw materials,” Echandi said. She also noted the cultural challenge that comes with training kitchen staff on new recipes.

Morpho could open additional CPKs at other airports in Latin America, but given the travel industry’s ongoing struggles during the pandemic, Echandi said any further expansion largely depends on increased flow. of passengers. Chile and Costa Rica both started allowing international travelers in November, with COVID-19 tests and quarantine restrictions, but the number of passengers at airports remains sharply down.

As airport authorities around the world continue to grapple with operational disruptions linked to the pandemic and the resulting vacant restaurant spaces, Minardi said he expects more opportunities to open up. for CPK. The company closely monitors the various regulations, which affects the planning process.

“All over the world, every government and every city official has approached COVID differently, and it’s a problem for us as operators,” he said. “In Hong Kong, let’s say if they have an increase of 50 or 60 cases, they close,” while other markets are more nuanced.

CPK was able to open restaurants at Evia Mall in Manila, Philippines, and Daegu Mall in Daegu, South Korea, last year, bringing the number of units in those countries to five and seven, respectively. He is also about to open a site in India.

CPK, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in late July citing liquidity issues and the impacts of the pandemic, completed its financial restructuring in November in a deal that included a debt-to-equity in which former creditors, led by Crescent Capital Group, own substantially all of the operations. The reorganization eliminated more than $ 220 million in debt; the deal also included nearly $ 49 million in new funding to support ongoing operations.

“We’re a lot thinner and lighter now,” said Minardi, “and a lot more confident than we were eight months ago when things were a lot darker.

“We are healthy and ready for a new journey. “

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