Zume Pizza, the Mountain View startup premised on pizza-baking robots, announced this week it was terminating most of its workforce as part of a company-wide business pivot.
Zume, which started four years ago in a Rex Manor industrial space, announced Wednesday it would lay off more than 250 employees, most located at its Mountain View headquarters.
Zume Pizza showed a ravenous appetite for expansion, quickly spreading across the Bay Area and blanketing cities with promotional deals. The company was particularly adept at selling itself to one important group: investors. As of just a couple months ago, Zume Inc. was still attracting massive capital, with some investors claiming the company should be valued as high as $4 billion.
But even as Zume continued to grow, it struggled to figure out its core business. As of 2018, the company began downplaying its pizza and rebranding itself as an automation platform for other food enterprises. More recently, Zume dusted off its patents for sustainable pizza boxes, and began branching out into selling food packaging.
In an announcement to employees this week, Zume CEO and co-founder Alex Garden said the company was shutting down its pizza operation entirely to focus on other opportunities. He emphasized the company would transition to work on molded-fiber food packaging and automated food production and delivery systems for other companies.
According to filings made with the state Employment Development Department, Zume is terminating a total of 172 employees who worked out of the Mountain View headquarters at 250 Polaris Ave., as well as an additional 80 workers from the company's San Francisco office. Other media outlets reported that 80 more Zume employees were let go from its office in Seattle. The total layoffs comprise 53% of Zume's workforce, according to the company.
"These decisions were incredibly difficult, as we could not have reached our current success without the talents of these same people," Garden wrote in the letter to employees. "We have done everything we reasonably can as a company to offer exit packages that will ease the transition."