Pizza making robot startup Zume will shut down Seattle office as part of company-wide layoffs

(Zume Photo)

Zume is shutting down its Seattle engineering office amid widespread layoffs at the pizza making robotics company.

The Bay Area-based startup is laying off 360 employees, or about 50 percent of its workforce, as it pivots away from automated cooking to food packaging, CNBC reported.

As part of the cuts, 78 employees will be let go from the downtown Seattle office, according to a new WARN notice filed Thursday with the state of Washington. The notice indicates that the layoffs begin March 13.

Business Insider reported about the Seattle office closure earlier this week.

There are more than 130 companies that have engineering centers in the Seattle region as a way to tap into the area’s rich talent pool buoyed by local tech giants Amazon and Microsoft.

Zume was valued at nearly $2 billion in November, per Recode, and raised a $375 million round from SoftBank in 2018. Several executives have left in recent months.

The company will create 100 new roles in its “Source Packaging” unit as part of the restructuring.

So what does this mean for the other robotic food makers such as Seattle startup Picnic, which showed off its pizza making robot at CES this week?

Picnic CEO Clayton Wood told GeekWire: “Totally different companies in totally different markets.”

Picnic has raised less than $10 million. Its customers include Centerplate, which provides food at stadiums and other large venues.

Here’s an email sent to employees by Zume CEO and founder Alex Garden, as shared by a company spokesperson.

Dear Zume Team Members,

Since Zume was founded nearly five years ago, we have been blessed with an opportunity to invent brave and innovative solutions intended to improve our global food system. Ours is a broad agenda including new methods to produce food, deliver it, and package it in increasingly sustainable ways. Today our mission is the same, and requires the same bold thinking, but with increased focus.

Our 2020 strategic plan is weighted to strongly support our growing Zume Source Packaging business and to increase our ability to provide companies around the world with sustainable alternatives to plastic. This focus, along with other changes to our priorities, means we must significantly modify the structure of our company.

As we move forward with this new strategy, many of the current roles at Zume no longer exist and we regret we must say goodbye to a number of our valued friends and fellow Zumers. These decisions were incredibly difficult, as we could not have reached our current success without the talents of these same people. We have done everything we reasonably can as a company to offer exit packages that will ease the transition of our impacted employees to the next phase in their careers.

Zume was founded on a clear mission to engineer a more sustainable food system. Our mission has not changed. We are still providing solutions which allow our partners to improve their sustainability and their margins at the same time.

How Zume is doing this:

In Zume Source Packaging we are doubling down on our market-leading innovations in compostable molded-fiber packaging. We will expand facilities and manufacturing capabilities in the USA, India and other global markets so that we can meet the tremendous demand for our products and solutions in this important space.

In Zume Forward Mobile we will continue to provide food production and delivery systems, which help restaurants and food brands improve the delivery process and bring food closer to their customers.

About Zume Pizza… With admiration and sadness, we are closing Zume Pizza today. Over the last four years this business has been our invention test bed and has been our inspiration for many of the growth businesses we have at Zume today.

Zume RD. Zume will continue to invest in key RD efforts across our portfolio.

I want to thank you all for your patience as we set our course for this year and beyond. After much discussion with leadership, our Board, and our Investors, we have a clear path to provide what the market wants and what the world needs – a more sustainable food future.

Please be sure to attend today’s All-Hands in-person in the specific room to which you were invited so that we can further discuss these changes.

With respect and compassion,


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