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LOS ANGELES-The California Pizza Kitchen Inc., which has been expanding and testing a new prototype format of late, posted a comparable store sales increase of 7.1% in the latest quarter, according to preliminary results. The company’ expects to issue its earnings report on Oct. 27 and to host a conference call the same day.

The uptick in comp store sales compared to an increase of 8.7% in the third quarter a year ago. Total sales for the quarter ended Oct. 2 increased 17.3% to $124.5 million, compared with $106.1 million in the third quarter of 2004.

The 7.1% increase beat the company’s estimate, issued during its July 28 conference call, in which it forecast a third quarter same-store sales increase of approximately 5.5% to 6.5%, and earnings per diluted share in the range of 32 cents to 33 cents. Based on third quarter 2005 revenues and comparable store sales results, however, management has increased its estimated earnings per diluted share by a penny.

The company, which operates 185 restaurants, said earlier this year that it intends to open no fewer than 15 new full-service restaurants by the end of 2005, eight of which were opened in the first six months of this year. CPK also is working on a new prototype store, and the eight new units it opened in the first half of the year were all in the prototype format.

The new prototype restaurants will require a larger investment than the former format, but the company expects higher sales and a higher cash flow from the new concept. CPK, which owns 154 of its locations and franchises the other 31, announced this summer that it would be taking its new concept to Minneapolis.

In the Minneapolis market, CPK hired Madison Marquette to represent it in finding the sites for the new restaurants, which will be approximately 6,000-sf operations. At the time of the announcement of its expansion in the Twin Cities, CPK already had three restaurants in the market.

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