Food52 lays off 20 people in company restructuring


Food52, the food and home goods publisher and commerce site, let go of 20 people on Wednesday afternoon in a company reorganization, according to a Food52 spokesperson. The layoffs primarily affected the content, creative and marketing teams.

“We were pretty blindsided,” said a Food52 employee who was not impacted by the layoffs and asked not to be named.

The company is now made up of 301 employees, the Food52 spokesperson said. The restructuring is a move to “better support our commerce business and to better integrate the two companies we acquired last year.” The spokesperson said former employees were “given severance based on their tenure at the company.” They declined to answer questions about how much employees were paid.

According to a Twitter thread posted on Wednesday night by Margaret Eby, editorial lead of food at Food52, those let go include: assigning editor Rebecca Firkser, recipe editor Jill Baughman and assistant editor Caroline Mullen. Food52’s director of social media Patrick Moynihan also tweeted that he was one of the people “impacted by yesterday’s layoff.”

In December, Food52 announced it was buying the home decor company Schoolhouse for $48 million, thanks to a total funding round of $80 million raised by its majority stakeholder, private equity firm The Chernin Group, according to reporting by Axios at the time. Last May, Food52 also acquired Scandinavian home goods company Dansk. No one from those two companies were let go in this week’s layoffs, the spokesperson said.

Food52 also announced in December upcoming plans to continue growing its business, including opening up a brick-and-mortar retail store in New York, debuting a pantry brand and moving into the Brooklyn Navy Yard office in order to triple content production.

“We grew a lot in the last two years, so we’re a very different company than we were. This is an ideal moment for us to assess the way we collaborate and give our team clearer goals to go after,” the spokesperson said via email. The company is cutting costs “to manage the margin and supply chain challenges caused by Covid,” they added.

Food52 isn’t the only publisher to cite those challenges and the impact on their bottom line. Commerce revenue at BuzzFeed Inc. — which is driven by transactions made via editorial shopping recommendations — declined 26% year over year to $16.7 million in Q4 2021.

“As the world reopened, consumers returned to shopping in stores and retailers struggled with supply chain disruptions and labor shortages,” BuzzFeed CFO Felicia DellaFortuna said during the company’s earnings call on March 22. 

However, at the time of BuzzFeed’s earnings report, both Sam Thompson, senior managing director at M&A advisory firm Progress Partners, and Shahid Khan, partner in the Telecommunications, Information Technology, Media & Electronics practice at management consultancy Arthur D. Little, brushed off the circumstantial reasons for dips in e-commerce, citing the rise in in-store and online shopping. 

“It’s not surprising to see a reset due to supply chain issues, especially when they are not a scaled retailer or retail brand in this market and don’t have a robust manufacturing organization,” Thompson said in an email Thursday afternoon.

While he said a round of layoffs like Food52’s is a “hard decision to make and less than ideal,” he noted they may be “necessary… to manage growth and viability going forward.” Thompson said the company took “a risk” by launching its own product lines rather than working with “major cooking brands.”

Food52 sold a majority stake to Chernin in 2019. The company was founded in 2009 by former New York Times journalists Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs. The company makes money by selling products on its website, as well as from branded content. Revenue was expected to hit $120 million for 2021, mostly from its commerce business, per Axios.

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