Waitr Holdings Inc. quietly laid off an undetermined number of employees Monday morning while publicly announcing plans to refocus operations back to Lafayette.
The company announced its intentions to retain 150 positions previously slated to be outsourced to Mexico in a Monday morning news release, but it did not address the layoffs.
"One of our key strategic initiatives is the elevation of the entire customer experience," said Carl Grimstad, CEO of Waitr, in a prepared statement. "We believe that one way to achieve that is to retain, as well as add to, our customer service and dispatch teams here in Lafayette, the heart of Waitr’s business. This will ensure the highest levels of service for our customers, drivers and restaurant partners."
Grimstad, an experienced technology industry executive, took the lead on Jan. 3 when former CEO Adam Price resigned after four months on the job.
Waitr employees reached out to The Acadiana Advocate on Monday, saying dozens had been laid off that morning and the company would be closing offices in multiple markets.
This appears to be the third round of layoffs at Waitr in the past 12 months. The first round happened in July, and the second in November.
Those impacted this time around may not be getting severance pay like those laid off last year, the employees said. Severance pay is not required by law in some states, including Louisiana.
A Waitr spokesperson declined to comment for this story.
The company announced in the Monday morning news release that it will consolidate all Lafayette operations to its "state-of-the-art headquarters facility" in the first half of 2020.
Waitr currently has offices at 214 Jefferson St. and 1100 Bertrand Drive. The Louisiana restaurant delivery company has essentially relocated its headquarters from Lake Charles to Lafayette in recent years.
It was not immediately clear which office the company plans to consolidate operations to, although the Jefferson office downtown is the newer of the company's two offices.
It was also unclear if the company plans to close its existing office in Mexico, which it acquired last year after buying a competitor in the Midwest.
Another unknown: exactly how many people Waitr employs across the entire business.
At the end of 2015, Waitr reported to the Louisiana Economic Development department that it had 300 employees, all but 50 of whom lived in Louisiana. In March 2019, Waitr told shareholders that including the Bite Squad employees, the combined company had 22,000 total employees - 21,000 of whom were drivers - so it had 1,000 employees at the time across operations.
Since then, Waitr planned to hire another 200 workers in Lafayette, according to February 2019 announcements.
Yet three rounds of layoffs appear to have affected hundreds of employees within the past 12 months.
One market manager for Waitr in Houston posted on LinkedIn on Monday morning that she had been laid off "effective immediately" after working for the company for three years. Waitr previously noted that it found success with remote managers of multiple markets rather than local representatives on the ground.
Another Waitr employee who worked as a software engineer in Lafayette posted Monday on his LinkedIn profile that "some of the most talented software engineers, designers and product leaders I know were laid off today."
The company is under pressure to deliver $30 million in savings to investors promised in late 2019.
"As we focus on providing a world-class customer experience, we will also continue to identify opportunities to ensure the proper alignment of employee expertise with our strategic initiatives," Grimstad said in Monday's prepared statement.
Grimstad's employment agreement, which expires in January 2022, guarantees him a base salary of $83,333 each month, according to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission records. That's a total annual base salary of $999,996. In addition to his salary, Grimstad could receive a bonus of $3 million if he remains CEO until 2022.
Waitr, which offers services across Louisiana and about 700 small- to mid-sized cities across the country, had a tumultuous 2019.
A few months after going public, Waitr's stock reached a 52-week peak of $13 a share in March 2019. The company even acquired a similar-sized competitor, Bite Squad.
But the merging of operations proved to be a rockier task than the company anticipated. The second half of 2019 looked much different for the tech company.
Waitr's top leadership resigned. Hundreds of employees were laid off. Restaurant partners protested contract changes.
Founder Chris Meaux resigned as CEO, and his replacement resigned just a few months later.
The company's stock fell below $1 per share and has been warned by the Nasdaq stock exchange that it may be on the path to delisting from the exchange if it doesn't pull its closing bid price above $1 per share by June.
Waitr's stock was trading around 38 cents per share as of Monday afternoon. The company is expected to release fourth quarter earnings in the coming weeks.
Advocate Staff Writer Kristen Mosbrucker contributed to this report.
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