The executive team at California Pizza Kitchen chose the restaurant near Sacramento’s Arden Fair to debut the company’s new menu, and it includes seasonal surprises such as the Sunny Side Up Bacon and Potato Pizza and the Harvest Kale Salad.
Six months ago, CPK CEO G.J. Hart spoke to The Bee by phone as his team was putting the finishing touches on a $1 million remodel of the Arden Way store. This time around, he and other senior members of his team flew into Sacramento on Monday to connect with employees and customers. Since the remodel, Hart said, the restaurant is generating double-digit percentage increases over comparable year-earlier sales.
California Pizza Kitchen had been suffering from waning sales in 2011 when a private equity firm called Golden Gate Capital bought the restaurant chain for $470 million and took it private. Hart was brought in to revive the brand. His team includes CPK veterans such as chief concept officer Sarah Goldsmith-Grover and head of culinary innovation Brian Sullivan and new blood such as chief operating officer Kim Boerema.
“When we did all this work together to figure out what CPK should really be,” Hart said, “taking that heritage and soul forward, part of what came out is that California is a mindset and not just a place.”
The result is what server Ashley Losey, an employee of the company for 14 years and a California native, described as more her style – laid back, enjoyable, a place where she can come as she is.
To bring back a brand that is synonymous with the Golden State, CPK execs have introduced hearty meals such as the ribeye steak dinner and fruity little numbers such as the strawberry-mango cooler. Diners told managers and company execs that steak, fish and chicken would be more likely to draw them for dinner. Within two weeks of its introduction at test restaurants, that strawberry-mango cooler has risen to be the fourth biggest-selling drink. At lunch, the new menu allows diners to pair a smaller pizza or a half-sandwich with either soup or salad.
Franchisees who operate California Pizza Kitchen restaurants in foreign countries are remodeling their locations at a faster pace than the company has been able to do in the United States, Hart said. He also noted that his culinary team has worked with CPK partner Nestlé to update the recipes for the frozen food line, and the new products were introduced in October and November.
Handy enough for you?
Looking for a handyman or maid? The founders of Manhattan-based Handybook said Monday that the right person now can be at your door with just the tap of an app.
Actually, Handybook is both a website and a mobile application. It works something like Uber does for transportation, co-founder Oisin Hanrahan told me. Consumers plug in their ZIP code, the service they want and the date they’d like service. Handybook provides options. The service has been available in 13 cities for six months. It launched in Sacramento and 11 other cities on Monday. It’s online at www.handybook.com.
“We put service people through an online assessment, a phone screen, and a pretty rigorous screening process and background check before we put them on the platform,” Hanrahan said. “Less than 3 percent of the people end up going all the way through the process. We adhere to all the local licensing laws, and we have insurance and bonding on top of that.”
Hanrahan wouldn’t provide the number of service people on the platform in the Sacramento region. He said the company registers only individuals, not companies, to perform services. “In the beginning,” Hanrahan said, “we actually tried contracting with companies, and we just couldn’t guarantee the service level that we wanted.”
Home cleaning makes up the core of services requested, whether that’s maid service or window washing, Hanrahan said. In the home-improvement category, services include television and appliance installation, furniture assembly and plumbing.
Cold water for one reader
Sacramento Bee reader Barbara Carr received a note from Coldwater Creek chief executive Jill Dean last Friday and sent it to me. In part, it read: “We have determined the business is not sustainable and over the next several months Coldwater Creek will begin to liquidate all of our business operations.”
The clothing retailer will begin going-out-of-business sales at its 350 stores and its website starting in early May. Its local stores are at 561 Pavilions Lane in Sacramento and at 1013 Galleria Blvd. in Roseville. The company, which is going through Chapter 11 liquidation, doesn’t have an exact idea when the stores will close permanently.
Carr, a Sacramento resident, said she’ll miss the chain of stores: “I’m in the over-65 age group, and our shopping venues are becoming fairly limited. Coldwater Creek had age- and size-appropriate clothing.”
The retailer said it had sought a buyer but did not find one. Its sales have been declining and its debts increasing. Holders of the company’s stock are not expected to receive any remuneration in the bankruptcy. The company is still honoring gift cards at this time.