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Retail | Feb 1, 2024
Late last year, Food52 announced that West Elm veteran Alex Bellos would be stepping down as CEO after less than a year in the top spot. Today, the commerce-meets-content platform is announcing a round of layoffs: 45 employees will be let go across the flagship site as well as its owned brands, Dansk and Schoolhouse. The cuts amount to 22 percent of Food52’s total headcount.
“Today, Food52, Schoolhouse and Dansk will lay off 45 team members across departments as part of a broader restructuring,” the brand said in a statement. “This was a difficult but necessary decision for the long-term success of the organization. We did not make this decision lightly and are incredibly grateful to those affected for all they have contributed to our brands.”
The CEO role remains unfilled, though several sources with knowledge of the situation say that former Barstool Sports CEO Erika Ayers Badan, who sits on Food52’s board, has been helping with the transitional period.
The layoffs are the latest development in what has been a turbulent period for the company.
Founded in 2009 by former food critics Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, the site was a pioneer in combining editorial content with affiliate sales and a marketplace—a monetization strategy that has since become de rigueur across the digital media landscape.
In 2019, Stubbs and Hesser sold a majority stake in Food52 for $83 million to TCG, the private equity arm of The Chernin Group. Two years later, TCG doubled down on its investment, pouring another $80 million into the business, some of which Food52 used to acquire Scandinavian heritage cookware brand Dansk and Portland, Oregon–based whole-home brand Schoolhouse. In 2022, the company began work on a new 42,000-square-foot headquarters in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
During the pandemic, Food52 benefited from three Covid-triggered surges: online shopping, home cooking and purchases for the home. In the fall of 2022, announcing the hire of Bellos, TCG partner Mike Kerns told Business of Home that Food52 had almost tripled its business during the pandemic.
However, 2023 proved tough sledding for Food52, as the end of the home boom and a broader pivot away from online shopping took a toll. The company had undergone two rounds of layoffs the year prior, and it continued to let employees go under Bellos’s tenure. Commentary on the employer review site Glassdoor points to internal strife and an unhappy marriage between leadership and Schoolhouse. Online reviews from customers also reported recent service lapses.
At the time of Bellos’s departure, Hesser told BOH that she was aware of the issues. “We want to make sure every customer feels taken care of, and we want to create a great environment for our employees—treating people well is part of our core values and we’re always striving to do better.”
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