After job cuts at Travis Kalanick’s food tech startup, an exec discusses challenges and rallies staff with bullish comments on Future Foods

  • Travis Kalanick’s food tech startup cut jobs this week.
  • In a meeting following layoffs, exec Guido Gabrielli discussed challenges and reasons for optimism.
  • He highlighted Future Foods’ importance at the all-hands meeting on Wednesday, per leaked audio.

Following job cuts this week at food tech startup City Storage Systems, an executive discussed challenges and rallied employees with bullish remarks about a relatively unnoticed part of the vast business.

Travis Kalanick’s most recent venture is CSS. It’s a multifaceted effort to reinvent food production, just as he did when he founded Uber. The CloudKitchens division provides virtual kitchens, while the Otter division sells restaurant software.

After raising $850 million at a $15 billion valuation in 2021, the startup’s business has recently become more difficult. CSS and other tech and real estate firms are facing challenges such as inflation and higher interest rates.

Otter general manager Guido Gabrielli addressed his staff in a meeting on Wednesday following the latest job cuts, according to audio obtained by Insider.

He stated that days like Wednesday are unpleasant for everyone, and that the layoffs were the responsibility of managers and the result of market headwinds. Gabrielli also talked about how higher interest rates affect startups in general.

Future Foods

He also had a few encouraging words. Future Foods, an Otter company, was a particular focus. This operation licenses virtual food brands, such as “Saint Pita” and “Don’t Grill My Cheese,” to ghost kitchens and restaurants, allowing them to sell items other than those on their existing menus through DoorDash and other delivery platforms.

Gabrielli emphasized that Future Foods’ business was previously uncertain. “We asked a lot of questions for a long time about whether we wanted to be there.” Is that feasible? “Will it ever be a real business?” he wondered aloud during the meeting.

However, Future Foods is now generating healthy revenue in comparison to the cost of customer acquisition.”In terms of profitability versus growth targets, it’s probably the most-performing business of the entire Otter portfolio,” Gabrielli said in an interview.

On the call, he did not disclose Future Foods or other businesses’ revenue. A request for comment was not returned by a CSS spokesperson.

‘Healthy tension’

Gabrielli admits that there is a “healthy tension” between her and the Future Foods team, claiming that they “tend to sandbag a little bit their capabilities.” However, he also stated that Future Foods has assisted Otter in improving relationships with delivery platforms such as UberEats.

The recognition comes amid a tougher market for virtual brands across the industry. Order delivery platforms such as DoorDash and Uber Eats have cracked down on virtual brands in order to reduce clutter and hold fly-by-night businesses accountable.

Insider previously reported that Uber Eats removed 8,000 virtual brands from its app in July. The company now requires that the menu of a virtual restaurant be at least 60% different from the menu of the “parent” restaurant where the food is prepared.

Future Foods also inquires about prospective customers’ ability to maintain at least a four-star rating on one delivery app.

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