• California Pizza Kitchen plans slight price hike in November

SAN FRANCISCO -- California Pizza Kitchen Inc. (Nasdaq:CPKI) chief executive officer Fred Hipp said the casual-serve chain will raise its prices 1.1 percent when its November menu comes out. Historically, CPK changes its menu twice a year: in May and November.

Speaking at a Banc of America Securities conference on Sept. 25, Hipp said price changes will affect about one-third of the menu's 68 items.

Hipp, whose comments were Web cast through CPK's Web site, affirmed the company's commitment to defining itself as a casual dining chain rather than a pizza chain. Despite the emphasis the company's name places on pizza, he said pizza sales represent only 33 percent of CPK's total revenues.

The company is on track to open a total of 18 new restaurants in 2002 and expects revenue growth of 20 percent in 2003. Hipp also said the company has no plans to resume franchising in the future, a practice it abandoned almost five years ago. Company-owned stores, he said, give CPK's leadership greater control over consistency in operations and products.

CPK's per-store revenue average, said Hipp, is $2.9 million, and the check average per customer is about $11. He said he expects both figures will rise gradually as CPK continues broadening its non-pizza offerings (three of its top-selling items are salads, he said), and experiments with growing its wine list. Currently, a 24-bottle selection in test in limited markets has produced good results.

On Sept. 27, Dow Jones Newswires reported that Wedbush Morgan brokers had rated CPK shares "buy" and set a $28 target price. The stock has hovered near $22 for several weeks.

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