Despite ambitious growth plans ahead, the multi-concept group Etta Collective has laid off 10 staff members, including equity partner and beverage director Micah Melton. In addition, executive chef Dan Perretta has quit.
First reported by Eater on Tuesday, the layoffs were confirmed by Etta Collective Managing Partner David Pisor, who said the 10 included three restaurant-level staff members. The rest were from the corporate office, including Melton. Etta Collective has 460 employees.
Both Perretta and Melton are alums of the high-end Alinea Group, based in Chicago. The two joined Etta Collective in their split from What If Syndicate, the former operator of Maple & Ash, earlier this year.
Pisor and former partner Jim Lasky reached a settlement after months of court battles over the What If empire. In the settlement, Lasky took Maple & Ash as well as the Monarch and Kessaku brands. Pisor took Etta, Cafe Sophie (now Sophie’s) and Celestina.
Investors in Maple & Ash, however, have carried on the fight, accusing both Lasky and Pisor of misusing Paycheck Protection Program funds while operating Maple & Ash, though the lawsuit does not disclose evidence for those claims. Pisor said he doubts the assertions, noting that he was absent at the time due to a stint in rehab. Pisor also said liability was assumed by Lasky in the settlement.
Meanwhile, Pisor in July outlined an ambitious growth plan for the group, including new restaurants coming this year and next in Chicago, Dallas and Beverly Hills, Calif.
At the time, Pisor called both Perretta and Melton “tremendous talents.”
But on Wednesday, Pisor said the two were in charge of running the group’s restaurants and “that whole process was struggling and it wasn’t producing the results we needed. So it got more stressful and we just decided it was best to part ways.”
Pisor added, “I love Dan. I think he’s a really talented chef. But operationally, we needed to move in a different direction.”
Neither Perretta nor Melton responded to requests for more information.
Pisor said most of the Etta restaurants do between $9 million and $12 million in sales annually, though the Culver City, Calif., unit is down about 12% this year.
The Hollywood strikes could be a factor, he said. The restaurant is close to several studios and little business has been conducted this year because of the labor impasse.
Eater reported that the Culver City location narrowly avoided eviction by landlord Ivy Station LLC for nonpayment of back rent.
In a statement emailed to Restaurant Business, however, Ivy Station officials said an agreement had been reached to amend the lease and withdraw eviction proceedings. “We look forward to a continued relationship moving forward,” the statement said.
Pisor said the eviction notices were part of the typical games tenants sometimes play with landlords when leases are being renegotiated.
“We started renegotiating our lease in January and it took longer than I wanted, so we stopped paying rent,” he said.
Despite the layoffs, some staff members at the Culver City unit got raises, Pisor noted.
“What we’re trying to do is prepare for a future that it’s taking longer to get to,” he said. “It was a very important thing to rightsize some of the problems we’ve been having and jump back into operations, and we think we’ve done that.”
UPDATE: Pisor later clarified that Dan Perretta had quit the company and was not laid off.
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