NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- California Pizza Kitchen will be adding a local flavor to its entire chain by making each restaurant reflect its surroundings, said CEO G.J. Hart.
"It's all about trying to make a genuine connection in the community that we are in and with the guests that would dine with us," said Hart. "Being part of that community, emulating part of what is special about that community, is important to us. It's important to us to make that connection. It's not just about California. It's about that community."
Of the 280 CPK restaurants worldwide, 80 will feature the new changes this year. To date, more than 20 restaurants have been transformed through a pilot program, including the chain's first ever location on Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills, Calif. The company said the total conversion will be completed by the end of next year.
CPK, which is owned by private equity shop Golden Gate Capital, is promising menu changes as well, with new options in every category showcasing seasonally inspired ingredients. And while pizza is literally the company's middle name, Hart stresses the fact that pizza only makes up a third of the menu and "ingredients are where it's at," especially in today's polished casual marketplace.
"It's really fresh, seasonal, special ingredients that people can see. Clearly that will have a healthy effect for you and we are conscious about that," said Hart.
Aside from revitalizing its domestic restaurants, Hart said the company is also growing internationally.
"We have great partners around the world, we are in 15 countries today and we plan to add three or four countries in the next 12 months," said Hart, adding that his plan is to open up 15 and 18 restaurants by the end of the year.
"In terms of our core guests, it's more the millennials, people that have more sophisticated palettes, foodies. People that enjoy food," said Hart.
"The plan right now is to have this transformation be very successful, have our guests give us a shot and really come down with us more often, and then we will see what happens. Right now, it's first things first," said Hart.