LOS ANGELES—California Pizza Kitchen, Inc. reported Jan. 29 that its comparable-store sales for the fourth quarter, ended Dec. 28, 2003, rose 2.8 percent (largely attributable to a small menu price increase), while revenues rose 17.8 percent to $96 million. Net income for the period was $4.4 million.

For its full fiscal year 2003, comp-store sales rose 2.5 percent (largely attributable to small menu price increases), while revenues rose 17.5 percent to $359.9 million. Net income for the year was approximately $8 million.

In a Jan. 29 Web cast, co-CEO Rick Rosenfield said 2003 was a challenging year for the 168-restaurant chain, but that he believed the company's results were "solid," despite its real estate problems and management shakeup.

"Larry (Flax) and I believe the concept is far from broken, and is indeed quite healthy," Rosenfield said in the Web cast.

Five under-performing units were closed during the year, while 24 new units opened (22 domestic, two international.)

In 2004 CPK will halve its growth pace to about 12 new units. Referring to several poorly selected sites that plagued CPK's performance in 2003, Rosenfield said that sites for new restaurants will undergo a stringent review process.

While mall locations are a CPK mainstay, he said the company won't move into those located in "green areas" or into mall locations that don't give its restaurants the visibility they need.

"Many of the under-performing sites of the past fall squarely in this category," he said, adding that the company will switch to local real estate brokers, from national brokers it used in the past, to find those sites.

Approximately five of its new units will be freestanding restaurants, and more half of its new sites will be in California. That's an expensive real estate market, Rosenfield said, but one which historically has delivered the best results for the brand.

The company also will reach out to adults a bit more in '04 with new menu items and a focus on increasing alcohol sales through expanded wine lists and bar areas.

For related California Pizza Kitchen stories, click here.

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