A Snapshot of a Corporation, or How to Take Something Special and Make It Less So

I’m sure you all know this story. A group of plucky and determined men sit around a space in one of their homes. They have an idea and it’s going to change everything. That’s certainly where the rags to riches of Waitr Inc. (now in over 200 cities) began. They had a couple of savvy businessmen and coders and a charismatic dreamer at the helm. I remember the early days of Waitr, everyone cramped into an office in a university incubator. I remember that charismatic dreamer promising time and again that this was a different type of company. It was a t-shirt and jeans operation. It was a place where we took care of our people. That’s what really appealed to me. It really did feel like this grass roots community that was going to be big and it was going to get there without screwing people over. I preached the gospel of Waitr to anyone who would listen. ‘Yeah, it’s a tech company from Southwest Louisiana. Can you believe it? And they really do care about their people and the communities.’ That was their argument. They worked with mom and pop restaurants to get their menus out there. They had a sliding scale for how restaurants could pay for the equipment so that these little hometown eateries could actually compete with the big dogs. I did my internship there as a consultant. I worked as a delivery driver. I worked in new restaurant input. I worked in quality control. Everyone apart of this group worked in multiple positions because they too believed in Waitr.

And in the beginning, it really did look like Waitr was going to be something different. My wife was having trouble finding a job in her field, so they got her a job, and they trained her. She started in the early days too, and she was fierce. They started her out doing delivery driver coordination. She worked the phones, got in touch with restaurants, and helped the drivers stay on track. On her own time, she trained to do menu entry and eventually quality control, and she moved up in the ranks. When we went back to Florida, they let her stay on as a remote worker. ‘No problem’, they said; ‘all your work is on computers anyway’. Since starting in 2016, she has taken on training responsibilities for new hires, managed scheduling for her department, and worked on interdepartmental operations. They moved her from hourly to salary. She’d been there for years, and on June 27, 2019 along with 80 other people she was fired.
I want to stress that this came as a shock because of the company that I described above. For a minute there, Waitr really was different. It really was something special. The changes started slowly. They’d bring in medium sized chains and franchise groups. Wait, isn’t their whole deal supposed to be “Eat Local?” The whole appeal of the company, from my perspective was that they brought main street to your front door. Back in 2016, when Waitr was still young, Founder and CEO Chris Meaux described the app as “a new way for local restaurateurs to connect with consumers without having to raise their prices” in an interview with The Advocate. It’s such a simple idea, and it’s a good one. In an age where brick and mortar, especially small ones, are at risk from all the big companies who can do it cheaper, this really felt like a game changer. Then they brought in the fast food joints. Fast food isn’t main street, and it sure isn’t local. Still, they were signing mom and pops in their ever expanding network of cities. That was their business model, go to mid-size towns where the other companies haven’t locked up the market. At the time, it felt like doing good. They were bringing a service to the ignored populations. Those other companies didn’t care about towns with under two hundred thousand people, but Waitr did.

And then the corporate speak started. They started talking about optimization and heat maps and increasing efficiency. Buzz words sneaked their way into regular conversations. The big yearly company hullabaloo had constant callbacks to the founders and their mythic origins, lest we forget that they were the good guys. There were cheesy sketches with the big wigs hamming it up (think Michael Scott in the cringey “Company Picnic” episode doing “SlumDunder Mifflinaire”). It was corporate in the most self-aggrandizing and masturbatory sense. We sign your paychecks, so watch us on the stage and clap. And then they went public. It was a huge deal. They flew a bunch of people up to New York to be there for the televised button pressing ceremony in which NASDAQ officially launched the company to the public. More corporate talk found its way in. More managers started showing up. Bosses had bosses who in turn had bosses. Along the way, they bought other companies, most recently a competing delivery company, Bite Squad. They even got bought themselves by Landry’s Inc. (A casino and restaurant magnate.) Things continued to slide into corporateness. Performance metrics were applied to everything. Items which by rights should be holistic, like the best way to help a new restaurant display a menu with their aesthetic, were quantified, they were numbers. Everything was becoming uniform. This company which prided itself on showcasing the unique in towns was suddenly shaving off the edges until everything could fit in the same sized box.

To be clear, this company was built on the backs of people like my wife. These folks put in the hours, but way more than that, they put in their hearts. Like me, they believed the bill of goods they had been sold. This was a family. We wear tee shirts to work for crying out loud. Their creativity and sweat was poured into Waitr, and that is why it succeeded. How were they thanked for this? They had a mandatory “integration meeting” in which they summarily terminated 80 people. They gave them 5 minutes to collect their things. They had police on site to escort them from the building. Because my wife is remote, she found out she was fired when they terminated her access to systems. She later got an email which explained that they were “eliminating redundancies.” That’s the change. She was not a member of the family. She was not a person who put years into this company. Hell, she wasn’t even a person. She was a redundancy. They all were. And they were shown the door with no notice, no chance to figure out what they were going to do, no real reason other than that they were the leftovers. The fat trimmed from a steak so that the truly special part could be served up to the consumer. They were discarded. It didn’t matter what these people did for the company. Some of them having been there since day one.

I say all of this to explain why I can only arrive at a singular conclusion. Waitr is not special anymore. It is not David, as much as it would like its employees and customers to believe so. It is just another soulless Goliath corporation that has quarterly reports as its only guiding star. They only care about the bottom line. So I ask anyone who sees this to let Waitr know that you see them. You see what they did, how they were so incredibly callous to the people who made them. If you are in a city with Waitr or Bite Squad, know that they do not care about your community. I’m almost certain that this will not do anything to the actual company, but at the very least these real people who bled for something in which they believed will have their stories seen and heard. And this company which has completely lost what made it special will be seen for the craven vulture which it has become.

25 comments

  1. Our office used them all the time but recently the delivery time increased. We have all switched to Door Dash.
    I am disappointed in the outcome of this company.

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  2. I’m so sorry for those who were let go. I know how it hurts, which turns into anger. Trust that you were and are still of great value, and what goes up, must come down. SHAME ON WAITR! NOT THE WAY TO HANDLE A REDUCTION! BOO!

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  3. Eric. Thank you. Thank you for putting into words that which I do not yet have the words to say.
    I can honestly say that I put everything I could in. I got up two weeks after a massive stroke which left me 25% paralyzed, 3/4 of brain function remaining and got right back to bleeding green. I ignored my family, spent enormous amounts of time working to ensure that waitr had what it needed to do to make that buy out a success. I have talked most of our city teams, csrs, psrs, QC, rsm, drivers into not committing career suicide. Gave up my Ph.D., had problems in my marriage to be placed in a room, with a person who I deeply respected not even look at us…those who bleed waitr green…tell us we were fired. When shit hit the fan..did they go to their leadership? No. They came to me. When media shit which could ruin the company happened did they go to Meaux…nope. I am at a point where I sadly am still numb. And i want you and Nondi to know if you need anything to let me know. I worry for my kids because after all i watched you all grow and myself and
    Jared could not be prouder of you and all of my kids.

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  4. That really sucks so many people were fired.

    Straight up anyone who starts a tech company is always thinking about how they are going to sell their business or go public. Waitr changed, but it changed into what any founder would have wanted it to be, a viable company that is sellable.

    Anyone that believes the charismatic dreamer founder that says “this company is going to be different” is, how do I put this politely… naive.

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    1. Jacob, I have to disagree with you. I think it is a bit nihilistic to assume that a company cannot be successful without burning its own people on the effigy of base profiteering. I sincerely believe that the CEO meant what he was saying, but what is it they say about absolute power? Dollar signs can change people, but that is not a foregone conclusion. I really hope the lesson from this is not that optimism is the same thing as naivete. Tech companies can do better. Smart people with big dreams don’t have to sell out to make money. It is so easy to see the things that happen around us and assume that it must be that way. We can be better than this, but it is going to require those with the most power remembering all the folks who helped them get there.

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      1. The investors and board members make a lot of these decisions. Meaux May be the CEO, but currently his position is more of a national spokesperson. He is ultimately a slave to the current board members and shareholders. I don’t believe he ever wanted to screw his employees. This can’t be blamed 100% on him. And let’s not forget, Tilman is still in the background somewhere of all of this. He is a shark.

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      2. I agree with you Eric.

        Also, let’s not forget that Meaux is the only founder left. The other co-founders that helped shape the Waitr culture have all abandoned ship. When things got tough, they sold out and partied down with their stock money (obviously one or two aren’t partying and had legit reasons I’m sure) and leaving Meaux to have to figure it all out alone.

        Waitr is no longer a start up. It is a large corporation and will need to do business as a large corporation. And thus, we must treat it as a large corporation. Unfortunately that means that they’re now focusing on the numbers only. The People don’t matter, only the money does. And from now on, everything and everyone will have to contribute to generating revenue.

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  5. I implore local restaraunts (who can afford it) to take the sacrifice and cut ties with Waitr.
    Show that these corporate leeches that we won’t stand for this and we won’t support this kind of practice.
    If they want to treat humans as a number, then hit them in their numbers and pull your business from them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so sorry that this happened to all of you who poured your hearts into Waitr. I was so proud to see that a local company had made it big, and I told their story to everyone. I loved seeing that Drew Brees has invested in a local startup. But now I’m disappointed and will be deleting their app.

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    2. Remember that this business started out with a wholesome goal in mind. Unfortunately, Waitr has succumbed to being just like any other corporation. This doesn’t make it a bad company. At least they TRIED to be different. If the stock market and people were different, maybe it would have worked. There are still hundreds of hardworking people that still work there, and can’t afford to leave. Lets not screw those guys after all is said and done.

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      1. The road to hell is…. you know the rest. My daughter had her dreams crushed this week by someone who didn’t have the decency to address his staff face to face. A video conference with one’s back to the audience is unbelievably cowardly and rude. That’s not “trying” at all. 80 some odd people lost their only source of income, their dreams, and their security. One should at least have the decency to face those whom you have passed sentence on. It was all done in such a shockingly callous way. They will survive and be stronger for it, but nothing excuses his treatment of those individuals who were so proud to say they worked for Waitr Corporate.

        You are right, however, that there are still phenomenal people still left in the company who are mourning the loss of friends. I’m sure they are dealing with great disillusionment as well. My thanks to those people who made my daughter’s workday experience such a wonderful one.

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  6. Thank you so much for writing this. I was laid off today as well. I wasn’t as seasoned as you and your wife in the company, but I’m truly disgusted with how they could just throw away people like your wife who were there from the beginning helping to make their business dream a reality. The abruptness of this lay off was heart wrenching and bizarre. My favorite part of working for Waitr was that I was representing a company that wanted the little man to succeed and today I see that that value is not actually one that Waitr upholds at all. It is also disgusting to read Chris Meaux’s statement to the press when we all know a different truth.
    Again, I’m very glad that I stumbled upon this blog— it was raw and wonderfully written.

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  7. This is my dilemma now. You are making all these cuts but still feeding employees at a rate of about $1,000. 00/day. Why not cut food spenditure and keep some of the jobs locally? Sounds to me someone has their priorities mixed up! I would much rather see my comrades have a job then worry about what they will be feeding me for the day. And yes they are still feeding employees. Next time I go into work I think I may just order from another service so they can see what it’s like to be stomped on.

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  8. During my employment with Waitr I fought through some really dark times.

    The first time I was employed I was so sucked in by the idea of working any hours I wanted when I wanted as a contractor for WaitrApp. I imploded because I wasn’t given time management skills to warn me that 70hrs is doable but it doesn’t mean I should do it. I didn’t handle myself well, so I quit.

    When I came back for round two, I was a little more together so I worked as an hourly driver. I loved my job and the relaxation that came from driving in my car all day. When one day, on the way to a customer’s house with Buffalo Wild Wings someone cut me off at the base of the bridge I needed to take to get to my customer.

    Que flipping my car four times, and a cervical collar for three months. Waitr saw me through the process of workman’s comp and gave me the confidence to make a doctor see to that I was properly taken care of. That confidence follows me now with unrelated health care issues.

    While I worked for Waitr under workman’s comp I was also a full time student at McNeese across the street from the college start up building. I could walk to work every day which even though it wasn’t much, enabled me the ability to not go hungry while I studied.

    My medical release was signed by my doctor who promptly moved out of state after assuring me that his move didn’t influence the quality of the care I was receiving for my injuries.

    They thought I had a hangman’s fracture, I did bruise my entire CSpine, and I began onset mental illness issues because most office jobs conflict with school stuff during the day. I was told to get there when I could. I loved it. I helped intake and set up drivers in the system, assisted the local city manager with passing out uniforms and bags, and I delivered during Waitrs thanksgiving charity event with my best office pal. (Still in a cervical collar)

    Waitr con was beautiful, but I didn’t think Waitr would become a con though.

    All of the people I’ve met have personality and love in their hearts for this company and the work that gets done during the day.

    Workman’s comp ends. The collar is off. I interview for a position and I’m hired right way. I charm the office, and I’m promoted to Customer Service Manager.

    I’ve risen from 7.42 a hour to a whopping 12.00 a hour. I was so confident in myself, it was unreal. These bosses were liberating, dispatching was fun, I loved it.

    It really seemed like I had found my utopia.

    Until I had to file a very detailed harassment report against the at that time directer if customer service operations. She eventually got fired but my issue wasn’t the catalyst. I wasn’t being “bullied” (p. s.: I was) for real.

    Anyway, I diverge.

    I become a PSR (a partner support rep) and I get seriously abused by my management. I was broken down so much that I had a mental break down and I quit after I called my manager a coward.

    I was promised benefits after I passed my 90 days and exceeded a year employed.

    Well I had been there for two years almost at that point, and I was tired of not having job security. My work quality turned to poop, and almost everything I said to everyone was abusive in some way.

    I remained in as long as I could, and it was worth it but I am thankful I didn’t go out like this. I chose, 80 people I’m close to didn’t get that liberty.

    Keep having fun, and enjoy the ride.

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    1. I apologize, I wrote this and forgot to mention that I was put through three 90 probationary periods with Waitr during my time employed there.

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  9. CHRIS MEAUX, Just Another FRAUD In The Business World

    Waitr founder and CEO Chris Meaux has won the 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the Gulf Coast area.

    Meaux was selected by an independent panel of judges, and the award was presented at a special ceremony June 21 in Houston.

    “It’s truly an honor to be chosen for this prominent award among all of these successful entrepreneurs,” Meaux said. “It affirms what I’ve always believed, we are building something truly remarkable here. I share this award with our many talented team members all over the country that I am fortunate to work with. This wouldn’t have been possible without their efforts.”

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  10. Very well written, Eric. What a huge disappointment Waitr is to all. It’s obvious that both you and your wife are intelligent, dedicated hard working individuals who would be valued assets for any company…shake the dust off your feet and move on. Better things await you.

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  11. I worked there last year. Thank God I left when I did. Blessing in disguise! Everyone who was let go, y’all are going to be just fine. There is a God in heaven and he sees ALL. Karma is a…well you know.

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  12. None of this surprises me. I have thought much the same over the past three years. I have tried again and again to be accepted into a higher position considering my knowledge and experience. Yet i have watched them hire others who were “better qualified” because they managed an ice cream parlor or pizza restaurant. Im sorry that managing over 800 people in Operations is not good enough. Why? Because somebody didnt like me (words straight from their mouth). Did i fet offered another position? Nope. They kept dangling me and telling me you are better qualified than most and we will get you into a market. Yet when i apply, nothing. Instead they hire someone that has never worked at Waitr. Again not offering me any other positions. Yet they can lean on me in my market to do exactly what it is they were hired for because they are not sure of the area or drivers. Then after all this, remove the incentive program for drivers withiut providing anything for their hard work to qualify the said club. Its pitiful. This doesnt even begin to scratch the surface of what I have seen. Something awful has changed.

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  13. I will NOT be utilizing their services anymore in light of all this. I was an avid orderer, 5 days a week minimum because of The Who what when where why and how I work. It was great; but after hearing this, I will most definitely be giving my business to another, more worthy, delivery service.

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  14. I believe this blog was written very well and with “facts”, as much as can be known in this situation. However, can’t say the same for some of the comments on which I commented.

    Eric, I commend you on your effective writing skills. It is a shame the way that this lay-off was handled, but it wasn’t surprising to many people. There were rumors about people losing their jobs for a few weeks before it happened. So at least some people were prepared when this happened. But it was the way they chose to execute it that was wrong. Everyone definitely deserved more of an explanation and honestly, how about a better apology. They should have had more than a few minutes to collect their belongings and shouldn’t have been rushed out quickly. We should have made it a point to thank them for the sleepless nights and constant stress.

    Each person is receiving a severance package, although we have no idea how much, and HR assistance with readying their resumes to enter back into the workforce.

    Over all, people who still work at Waitr, who are ashamed of this week’s events and had no part in them, but cannot afford to leave, are heartbroken. But we will try to make it so that everything we’ve all worked for wasn’t for nothing. We will remember you all, everyday. There is no doubt about it.

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  15. I feel so vindicated. Waitr Fired me after one of those 90 day periods with zero reason as soon as I came back home from launching a new market in California for 10 days. Years later, it all makes sense.

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