Entrepreneur Archie Rodriguez’ Global Restaurant Concepts Inc. (GRCI) was the first foreign company to franchise California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) outside the United States when it officially opened its first outlet in Glorietta Mall, Makati City in 1998.
Seventeen years and 10 branches later, GRCI has become a very significant partner to the Californian pizza company. As proof, CPK held its first-ever Global Summit in the Philippines from November 6 to 8.
No less than CPK global chairman and chief executive GJ Hart validated this in an exclusive interview with The Sunday Times Magazine. He shared, “The Philippines is a very important market for us. Global Restaurant Concepts Inc. is a phenomenal partner, and our very first outside the US. They did a very good job so it is only fitting that our first Global Summit is held here in the Philippines.”
He also acknowledged the leadership of Rodgriguez, GRCI president and chief executive officer and said, “In addition to all that, one of the key components of the California Pizza Kitchen is to be very innovative. And Archie has really pushed the envelopes.”
Citing an example, Hart talked about the island concept that GRCI introduced to CPK, which is known worldwide for its spacious restaurants that accommodate many diners.
“The island concept [opened only in September at the Century City Mall in Makati City]is the first in the world for CPK. We can take key learning here. For example, though it is much smaller, it offers us the ability to go to many places that we might not have before,” Hart explained.
The top executive lauded Rodriguez for his bravery despite the risk of starting something unorthodox to the brand. For that, the global CPK has made the island concept the new prototype for expansion in old and new markets in the coming years.
CPK at Century City Mall’s lower ground level seats only 80 guests, or half of the average normal capacity, and showcases the restaurant’s open kitchen.
Another aspect of innovation that the Rodriguez-led GRCI continues to showcase is food creativity. In time for the summit, CPK Philippines unveiled its new menu highlighted by Filipino-inspired dishes including the Green Mango Salad, Chorizo Pizza, Gambas + Roasted Garlic, Manila Sunset Sangria, and Green Mango Pie.
For Hart, both the island concept and the new menu underscore the aim of the summit to usher CPK’s “new chapter.”
“The summit aims to share the vision and strategy of the company as we launched what we call the next chapter of California Pizza Kitchen. It is really about evolving the brand with its history and heritage into something relevant with the modern times,” the CPK chief enthused.
Another agenda at the four-day event, he added, was to have mutual sharing of best practices and support among all the 11 represented international markets.
“I think we’ve achieved that beyond our expectations,” Hart added.
To cap the summit, CPK in keeping its tradition of giving back held the “Inspired Acts Day” in the country. Over 70 participants helped took part in helping the Kariton Klasrum, a charity that helps to bring out-of-school youth back to their studies.