California Pizza Kitchen Is Making A Surprising Change After 35 Years

It's lunchtime. "Man, I'm hungry for a burger," you say. "Me too," says your coworker. (Thankfully.) Then, they ask, "How about California Pizza Kitchen?" Confused? Don't be. After 35 years, California Pizza Kitchen is about to release its first burger. Why? We're glad you asked.

October may be National Pizza Month, but California Pizza Kitchen doesn't seem to care at all in this case – and, really, why should it? After nearly 40 years of cranking out pizzas and expanding to almost 200 locations around the world, it looks like CPK might (understandably) be ready for a little change. You might know it for sit-down restaurants or its line of frozen pizza. But now, in a seemingly oxymoronic twist for California Pizza Kitchen, it's burger time. Introducing: the West Coast Burger, an iconoclast on a brioche bun. What does that mean for hungry burger lovers? Sit tight for just a little longer. It's scheduled to hit stores nationwide on Tuesday, October 4, per a press release. Until then, here's what fans can expect from the new, unexpected dish.

CPK is asking fans to reconsider pizza

The West Coast Burger is a blend of wagyu, brisket, and chuck roast, according to the press release. The toppings lineup is stacked, including applewood smoked bacon, caramelized onion, and melted cheese. California Pizza Kitchen has been cannonballing into the world of avante-garde menu items lately. In April, CPK announced a lineup of other non-pizza offerings, including Wild Mushroom and Brie Soup and Baja Crunch salad, per Businesswire. Doesn't sound like something you'd order at a pizza joint? That's kind of the point, says Scott Hargrove, the EVP and Chief Marketing Officer. Hargrove says in the recent press release that CPK is trying to "spotlight" its more unexpected menu items, like the Catalina Chicken Sandwich with goat cheese, or the California Caprese Sandwich with lemon herb vinaigrette.

In addition to the new burger, CPK is enjoying another 35-year first: a domestic franchise program. As of January 2022, CPK only had restaurants in 27 U.S. states, via FSR – a statistic the chain is looking to remedy by whatever means necessary. In the past, says Giorgio Minardi, executive vice president of global development and franchise operations, CPK was set on building 4,800 square-foot restaurants. Now, Minardi says the company will be keeping its options open and expanding to kiosks and "express models" to bring CPK to malls, airports, stadiums, universities, and more. Within the next decade, it plans to open at least 300 total stores around the world. (Hope you're hungry.)