Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Why is the California Pizza Kitchen in Wellesley Struggling?

5:45pm on a Tuesday night in Wellesley.  I'm looking for a family-friendly restaurant- what are my options?  Bertuccci's, Qdoba, and California Pizza Kitchen come to mind.  Tucci's it is.  We arrive at Bertucci's at a quarter 'til 6 and the place is mobbed, which can be a good thing depending on how you look at it.  Sometimes it's like a elementary school cafeteria in there and your little ones can fling a fork across the room and nobody will notice.  But tonight, we were deep into the fuss-zone before our estimated 5-10 minute wait was up.  My youngest made a break for the door and I took it as my sign that our dining at Bertucci's wasn't meant to be.

While we were driving over to California Pizza Kitchen I was wondering: Why was Bertucci's so crowded?  Especially on a Tuesday night?  Based on visiting the CPK previously on Friday nights I had a feeling they wouldn't have a wait on a Tuesday night.  Sure enough the place was nearly empty.  I'd estimate it was only about 20% full.

To understand why the California Pizza Kitchen in Wellesley is struggling, we need to understand the Wellesley consumer.  This is no easy task.  People in Wellesley spend money on the following things:
  1. Education
  2. Real Estate
That's it really, and the real estate costs are in large part driven by positioning the family close to educational opportunities (public schools in town and colleges and universities nearby).  I'm exaggerating of course but I hope you catch my drift.  People don't spend their money on trendy frivolous things.

This is part of why the Natick Collection is a ghost town.  Add to this the fact that a lot of people in the Boston area dislike chain restaurants and things don't look good for the CPK in Wellesley.

Okay, so why is it that the California Pizza Kitchen struggling while Bertucci's is apparently doing well?  They're both chains.  Both are competing with almost a dozen other pizza places within striking distance.  Bertucci's happens to be headquartered in Massachusetts but I don't necessarily think of them as a Boston kind of company.  Is the menu at CPK too unusual?  Is it perceived as being too pricey?  Is it actually too pricey?  Is the ambiance off the mark for what people are looking for?  Not family friendly enough?  Do people not like the individual-sized pizza model?  Is the food not good?  Do people just not like it?  Yelp reviews are lackluster and inconsistent.

I honestly don't get it.  We had a great meal tonight and every time we've been there so far.  But I'm afraid it's not going to be around much longer.  The location seems a bit unusual as compared to their other locations (which tend to be attached to higher traffic areas like malls or urban locations).  The build-out always seemed half-hearted to me as well.  Like they could be out of there with short notice if necessary.  I hope they stick around but wouldn't be surprised if they don't make it.

What do you think?  Is the CPK in Wellesley going to make it?  Why doesn't Wellesley eat at the California Pizza Kitchen very often?
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