It appears Sweetgreen, the fresh food darling that has at times called itself a tech company, has recently shed some of its tech execs.
The Spoon has learned that two of Sweetgreen’s senior technology team are no longer with company as of this week. The employees are Derek Pietz, the company’s former head of automation, and Ken Cottle, who had the title Director of Engineering.
It was almost a year ago that The Spoon wrote about Pietz getting hired at Sweetgreen as the company’s first head of automation. Pietz had come over from Lab2Fab, the division responsible for building out robotic restaurant proof of concepts for food service equipment giant Middleby.
Pietz confirmed to me via Linkedin message he is no longer with the company, but would not comment further. Cottle updated his Linkedin in recent days and indicated he is looking for a new position.
While we don’t yet have a ton of information on why Pietz and Cottle are no longer with Sweetgreen, their departures come at a time when both restaurants and restaurant tech companies are scaling back both initiatives and headcount. This week alone, POS company Toast cut 50 percent, Yelp laid off 1,000 employees and furloughed even more, and mega-chain McDonald’s announced it is slowing development of its tech-centric Experience of the Future stores. All of these moves are in response to COVID-19’s impact on the economy and the current fallout the restaurant industry is experiencing because of mandatory dining room closures.
At this point it’s too soon to tell if these departures are a sign of a McDonalds-like pullback on future forward initiatives or part of a bigger reduction in headcount due to COVID-19. Still, two senior technology execs leaving only a year or so after their arrival makes one wonder if the company has had a change of heart (COVID-forced or not).
We’ve reached out to Sweetgreen for comment and will update the story when we hear back.