Illustration by Josh Brill
May 6, 2022 6:00 AM PDT

Two years ago, Reef Technology was gearing up for a period of explosive growth. The operator of a network of ghost kitchens—spaces where meals are prepared independent of restaurants—raised $700 million from SoftBank and Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund that year in a round that valued it over $2 billion. The company went on a hiring spree that saw its head count eventually swell to 15,000 full-time employees.

But now Reef is pumping the brakes on those expansion plans, with a plan to announce it is laying off 750 employees as early as next week, according to a person familiar with the matter. In a draft of a memo announcing the cuts that was viewed by The Information, Reef co-founder and CEO Ari Ojalvo said the cuts are part of an effort to focus on profitability and productivity, “both critical assets in inflationary environments.” Ojalvo added: “This move proved to be timely and necessary as we observe the current state of the economy.”

After an intoxicating, 14-year fixation on growth—in headcount, product lines and revenue—tech companies are sobering up fast as worries about an economic downturn intensify. From the smallest startups to industry icons like Facebook, tech companies are starting to cut staff, freeze their hiring and kill nonessential projects. Veterans of past bear markets—the global financial crisis in 2008, the dot-com implosion in 2000—have started tweet-storming survival tips to a younger generation of techies unaccustomed to such uncertain circumstances.

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