Pilotworks All of a sudden shutters, 175 grocers in Brooklyn deserted
Incubator for restaurants and groceries Pilot work Operations stopped abruptly that weekend. 175 local grocery vendors were banned from their produce and left without a kitchen ahead of a busy holiday season.
The company, which has high profile investors like Sweetgreen founders and Blue Hill co-owner David Barber, closed its Brooklyn kitchen area on Saturday. Members were banned from accessing their ingredients, inventory, resources, and equipment after 5 p.m., according to a press release from a coalition of companies operating from the location.
In an email to the companies on Saturday evening, Pilotworks announced that it had failed to secure the “capital necessary to continue operations” and added that the only option would be to cease all operations “immediately” . (Less than a year ago, Pilotworks announced a $ 13 million investment.) The email stated that all kitchens should be permanently closed on October 13 at 5:00 p.m.
But sellers tell Eater the company let them down. Lani Halliday from Brooklyn Brutus Bakeshop says she received the email almost two hours after the alleged closing time. “They only gave members a few hours to collect their belongings,” Halliday wrote in an email to Eater.
Pilotworks announced to its members that staff would be in attendance Monday through Wednesday to facilitate equipment and grocery collection from the kitchen. All future classes and events have been canceled, the email said.
Anjali Bhargava from Brooklyn-based Bija bharAccording to a post she posted on Facebook, the product that makes an organic turmeric elixir was also belatedly announced. “They not only failed to let us know, they let all employees go yesterday and turned off the gas and drove out people who had food on the ovens and in the ovens for events and markets that weekend,” she writes. Many businesses are preparing for the holidays, a time that makes up a good chunk of annual small grocery sales, she adds.
The Incubator outpost in Brooklyn was also home Ube kitchen, a vegan dessert seller who has already informed his fans on Facebook that he will not participate in the rest of Smorgasburg’s Food Fest due to the closure of pilotworks.
Pilotworks was launched in 2016 by co-founders Mike Dee and Nick Devane as a way for small grocery sellers and entrepreneurs to get their businesses started. It offered a flexible cooking environment by renting kitchen space and equipment by the hour or monthly. According to a press release, around 70 percent of the food sellers working in the kitchens were owned by women and minorities.
According to Crunchbase, an industry data site, the startup had raised over $ 15 million in four funding rounds since its inception. In December 2017, Pilotworks received a $ 13 million investment led by Techstars Ventures and Campbell Soup’s venture capital fund, Acre Venture Partners. Other investors who supported the startup were David Barber, co-owner of Blue Hill; the founders of Sweetgreen; and Andy Appelbaum, co-founder of Seamless.
In March of this year, Pilotworks expanded to Newark, a move reportedly by the Community Economic Development Corp. the city was supported, as reported by NJTV News. The company also operated kitchen facilities in Dallas and Chicago. In September, the Providence and Portland sites closed, the Spoon reported, and the Newark outpost is now gone, too.
Earlier this year, the company began to move its top management: In June, co-founder and CEO Devane resigned and was replaced by the former COO Zach Ware In a move aimed at expanding Pilotworks’ commercial kitchens and focusing on long-term initiatives, the company said at the time.
But these long-term initiatives have failed and the company is now facing a chaotic shutdown. Pilotworks announced the news publicly on its website over the weekend. See the full explanation below:
With a heavy heart, Pilotworks will cease operations on October 13, 2018 after failing to raise the capital required to continue operations. We recognize the shock of this news and the disruption it will bring to the independent food community for which we were so honored to serve.
This is a sad result for Pilotworks, manufacturers in our kitchens and independent food in general. We would like to have one more option to continue operations. Unfortunately there wasn’t. The work of the independent food community is amazing and inspiring. We know it will live on and we are very sorry that it won’t be with Pilotworks.
Questions can be directed to [email protected] and we will make every effort to answer them as best we can.
Considering the news, Hot bread kitchen announced Monday that it has partnered with organizations across the city to connect vendors with available kitchens, including the East Harlem Incubator.
Eater has contacted Pilotworks for more information. Stay tuned.