California Pizza Kitchen, Inc., home to the Original BBQ Chicken Pizza and other innovative hearth-baked pizzas, made-to-order pastas and creative salads, today announced that G.J. Hart has been named its President, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Chairman. He will succeed Rick Rosenfield and Larry Flax, CPK’s co-founders. CPK was acquired by Golden Gate Capital on July 7, 2011.
Mr. Hart, 53, is a highly respected industry leader who brings to CPK a proven track record of growing casual dining concepts. He most recently was CEO of Texas Roadhouse, a publicly traded casual dining company that owns, operates, and franchises more than 350 restaurants across the country. During his ten years at Texas Roadhouse, he led the company through an unprecedented period of growth, increasing revenues from $63 million to more than $1 billion. Under his direction, Texas Roadhouse grew unit count, revenue, and profitability every year he was at the company. Mr. Hart’s leadership skills, strategic vision, and ability to create an employee-focused culture are often cited as the pillars for Texas Roadhouse’s successful expansion.
Messrs. Rosenfield and Flax stated, “The Company has been actively engaged in a CEO search and, with the sale to Golden Gate Capital complete, this is the right time to bring in a new CEO with the operational and strategic expertise to take CPK to the next level of performance. In G.J., we have found a talented leader with demonstrated success in building one of the most popular and respected casual dining brands through employee loyalty and a focus on delivering a superior dining experience for consumers. His leadership skills and entrepreneurial drive, combined with CPK’s reputation of delivering delicious, innovative food and excellent service, position the Company for continued success.”
“I am excited to be joining California Pizza Kitchen – a company that has earned an exceptional brand reputation by consistently raising the bar for excellence and innovation in a competitive and dynamic marketplace,” said Mr. Hart. “Equally compelling is the opportunity to work with CPK’s talented management team and employees whose success is anchored by a strong set of embedded cultural values, and with the Golden Gate Capital team whose strategic vision for casual dining and rich history of growing top-tier consumer brands are unparalleled.”
Josh Olshansky, a Managing Director with Golden Gate Capital, said, “G.J. is widely recognized as one of the industry’s most successful executives whose achievements are unmatched in the sector. He is a creative and team-oriented leader with excellent management skills and a superb track record of delivering outstanding results and growth. As we look to the future, we are confident that CPK will benefit from his unique perspective and capabilities, and we are delighted that he has agreed to join the Company.”
Mr. Hart is an active member of numerous community and philanthropic organizations, including Habitat for Humanity, Special Olympics, United Way and the American Red Cross. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of Kosair Children’s Hospital, Bellarmine University and the Louisville Metro Police Foundation.
Golden Gate Capital is one of the most active acquirers of leading consumer brands in both the retail and restaurant sectors. Over the past several years, Golden Gate has made significant investments in California Pizza Kitchen, On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina and Romano’s Macaroni Grill, and multi-channel retail companies Express, Eddie Bauer, J. Jill and Zales. Golden Gate Capital focuses on partnering top-tier brands with best in class management teams.
Recognition and Awards:
Under G.J.’s leadership, Texas Roadhouse has won a wide-range of prestigious awards for its innovative, employee-focused culture and successful growth:
- Louisville Courier-Journal – Top Workplace in the Louisville area (2011)
- Forbes Magazine – one of the Top 10 Fastest Growing Retailers (2010) and one of the 200 Best Small Companies (2007 and 2008)
- Business First – Large Business of the Year (2010)
- O.C. Tanner – Carrot Culture Award for employee recognition and engagement (2009)
- Nation’s Restaurant News – Golden Chain Award (2006)
- Consumer Reports – readers selected the Company as the top concept in the Pub/Grill category (2006)
In addition, his achievements have been recognized by leading media publications and industry organizations, including IR Magazine as one of its top CEOs (2011) and the Kentucky Restaurant Association as the Restaurateur of the Year (2010).