- Reef has replaced president Michael Beacham, who spearheaded deals with key chains like Wendy’s.
- “Reef is choosing to end my employment before I was able to fully complete the mission,” Beacham said.
- The departure comes as the ghost kitchen startup slowed its growth and laid off 750 people.
Reef Technology, a ghost kitchen startup backed by SoftBank, has ousted a key executive who spearheaded crucial licensing partnerships with top restaurant chains such as Wendy’s and TGI Fridays, Insider has learned.
Restaurant industry veteran Michael Beacham, who most recently held the title of president of kitchens at Reef, said in an exclusive statement to Insider that “Reef is choosing to end my employment.”
“I spent the last 18 months, working day and night and traveling the globe, trying to build a world-class food and beverage executive team. I utilized my thirty years of personal and professional industry relationships to bring the most recognized brands into the REEF ecosystem,” Beacham told Insider. “It is regrettable that REEF is choosing to end my employment before I was able to fully complete the mission I came here to achieve. There is more to this story and to what happened to me, which will come out at the appropriate time.”
His last day is June 12.
Beacham, who regularly represented Reef at industry conferences, has been quietly replaced with Kenneth Rourke, who is now president of kitchens and retail at Reef. Rourke’s previous title was executive vice president and head of enterprise brands. Before joining Reef, he was president at the experiential restaurant group Barton G.
Reef declined to go on the record about the departure, only confirming that Beacham is leaving and has been replaced by Rourke. The news comes a month after the ghost kitchen company cut 5% of its workforce in early May.
A current operations manager said Reef was looking for a fall guy for its operational issues and Beacham took the hit. “Although not a great leader, Michael did not singlehandedly make every poor decision for the company,” the manager said. “There are more leadership roles than actual working roles at the company, so until Reef starts cleaning house at the leadership level, we will keep seeing the same issues. It’s a shame Michael is taking the backlash solo when so many people in leadership are directly responsible.”
The manager asked to remain anonymous because they are not authorized to speak to the press, but their identity is known to Insider.
Beacham had decades of experience in the restaurant industry, previously holding executive positions for the parent companies of Olive Garden, Chuck E Cheese, and Hard Rock Cafe (where he and Rourke were coworkers). He started working at Reef in October 2020, a month before the Miami-based startup landed $700 million in funding led by SoftBank.
In February 2021, Beacham replaced Bruce Schroder as president of Reef. During his tenure, he oversaw massive growth at Reef, which operates mobile trailers that sell food for delivery through apps like DoorDash and Uber Eats.
Beacham was responsible for striking partnerships with high-profile restaurant chains like Burger King, Popeyes, and Subway, as well as celebrity-backed delivery-only brands like MrBeast Burger and Guy Fieri’s Flavortown Kitchen.
Reef’s mobile kitchen vessels are typically set up in parking lots managed by Reef, formerly known as ParkJockey. Reef grew from 100 kitchen vessels in late 2020 to 320 kitchen vessels operating in the US and globally in late 2021.
In January, Reef temporarily closed about one-third of its food trailers for underperforming. Around the same time, the company began stepping up its partnerships with large enterprise brands like Wendy’s, which made more money compared to virtual brands.
But the startup’s rapid growth has been hounded by operational chaos and missteps, as documented by Insider. The company has been caught operating trailers without permits in multiple US cities, has been cited for violating food safety protocols, and has been accused of stiffing vendors.
Most recently, Insider reported that real-estate firm JLL sued Reef, alleging nonpayment of invoices totaling about $3.5 million. This week, Reef filed a motion to dismiss the JLL suit, stating the complaint contains “numerous fatal flaws.”
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