11 Things You Didn’t Know About California Pizza Kitchen

This casual pizza chain is just about impossible to dislike

The First Menu Was Developed by the Pizza Chef at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago

Legendary chef Wolfgang Puck introduced “California-style pizza,” topped with ingredients that had never before been seen atop a pizza, like smoked salmon, caviar, zucchini blossoms, and flavored olive oils, to the masses. Puck hired pizza master Ed LaDou to be his pizza chef after sampling LaDou’s creations at a Los Angeles Italian restaurant, and LaDou stayed with Spago for five years. Rosenfeld and Flax hired LaDou to develop the menu when they launched California Pizza Kitchen, and LaDou brought along many of his Spago recipes (as well as the concept of open kitchens and wood-burning ovens). 

PepsiCo’s Purchase of it Was a Complete Disaster

When PepsiCo bought a controlling stake in the company in 1992, it instituted a rapid expansion plan that was less successful than envisioned, and they were forced to cut costs by replacing fresh ingredients with frozen vegetables and cheese. By the time a private equity firm bought out Pepsi’s shares in 1997, the conglomerate had blown millions of dollars on the failed acquisition. Fresh ingredients returned shortly thereafter.

Its Supermarket Pizzas Are Made by Nestlé

Its Supermarket Pizzas Are Made by Nestlé

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CPK’s frozen pizzas are a common sight in the supermarket freezer section, in varieties including white, barbecue chicken, veggie, and Sicilian. These were originally licensed by Kraft, but have been produced by Nestlé since 2010. 

All U.S. Locations Are Company-Owned, Not Franchises

All U.S. Locations Are Company-Owned, Not Franchises

Photo Modified: Flickr / Gary Stevens / CC BY 4.0

Unlike most fast-food chains, all American locations are owned and operated by California Pizza Kitchen, as opposed to franchise owners. If you want to buy a California Pizza Kitchen for yourself, you’ll have to buy it overseas and run a company that already owns full-service restaurant chains. 

The Company Was Publicly Traded From 2000 to 2011

The Company Was Publicly Traded From 2000 to 2011

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California Pizza Kitchen was first traded on the NASDAQ National Market in 2000, but after the private equity firm Golden Gate Capital purchased the company for $470 million in 2011, the company’s common stock stopped being publicly traded. 

It Caters

If you want CPK to cater your next gathering, there’s a wide menu of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, pastas, pizzas, and desserts that it can bring. 

There’s a “Mobile Kitchen,” and You Can Rent It

If you’re in California, Arizona, or Nevada, you can hire the CPK Mobile Kitchen, a giant food truck equipped with ovens, sauté stations, sinks, and coolers, and the staff will do all the cooking onsite at your event. 

Most New Menu Items are Introduced in June and November

The menu rotates seasonally, with summer products launched in June and winter products launched in November. If you’re fiending for new CPK menu items, those are the months to check in!

It Invented Barbecue Chicken Pizza

Barbecue chicken pizza is so popular these days that it’s even on the menu at plenty of old-school New York pizzerias, but before it was ubiquitous it was on CPK’s very first menu, invented by LaDou. It nearly single-handedly put the restaurant on the map, along with other creations including Peking duck pizza, goat cheese pizza, and teriyaki chicken pizza. 

Every Location Has Nearly 20 Cheeses on Hand

The next time you visit, ask the folks behind the counter what types of cheeses they have available. With so many creative pizzas on the menu, the selection is really astounding. 

Loyal Fans Can Sign Up for The “Pizza Dough” Rewards Program

If you sign up for the chain’s rewards program, you’ll receive five dollars in credit for every $100 you spend as well as a few small plates when you register. Not a bad deal!