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Employees Sue Outfox Hospitality in the Wake of Sudden Closings

Action comes after Foxtrot and Dom’s Kitchen & Market stores shut down without warning
Lynn Petrak, Progressive Grocer
a large clock tower towering over a city
Foxtrot grew rather quickly as a chain of upscale convenience-oriented markets in urban markets, while Dom's Kitchen & Market came on the scene in 2021 as a corner food emporium.

That didn’t take long: The day after 33 Foxtrot stores and two Dom’s Kitchen & Market locations abruptly closed their doors, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of now-former employees. According to a report in Block Club Chicago, the class-action measure was taken against parent company Outfox Hospitality, which was formed only a few months ago.

One named plaintiff is a worker at a Foxtrot location in Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood, near Dom’s second store that opened in 2022. Attorneys cited legislation under the U.S. Department of Labor, the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, that helps ensure advance notice to employees in the event of mass layoffs and closures. There are some exceptions to the required 60-day notice, including “unforeseen business circumstances” and faltering companies, among other circumstances. 

In the filing, legal representatives of laid-off workers involved in the suit petitioned for compensation equal to all unpaid wages and salaries, accrued holiday and vacation pay and other benefits that should have been paid in the 60-day notice period. They also asked for a jury trial.  

The sudden shuttering of locations caused a lot of buzz and consternation in the Chicago area where both companies were headquartered, as workers and customers took to social media to express their shock. Some reports on the X (formerly Twitter) platform revealed that employees allegedly left with alcohol from a store shortly after finding out the stores were closing and their jobs were terminated. Another poster claimed that a half-frosted cake was spotted in a bakery area, reflecting the unexpected nature of the announcement.

Looking back, the past six months have been volatile for both organizations. The companies made the surprise merger announcement in late November 2023, announcing the creation of Outfox Hospitality that would launch a few weeks later. Since then, there have been a number of leadership changes. Dom’s co-founder and CEO Don Fitzgerald, who became interim COO of Outfox Hospitality during a transition period, departed this winter. Liz Williams, who joined Foxtrot as president and CFO in 2021, was promoted to Foxtrot CEO in 2023 and later named Outfox Hospitality CEO, also left this winter to take on a CEO role at the foodservice chain El Pollo Loco. In February, Whole Foods exec Rob Twyman was tapped to replace Williams and in mid-March, Foxtrot put out a call for a new chief operating officer.

Foxtrot was founded by Mike LaVitola and Taylor Bloom in 2014 and eventually grew to 33 stores in urban areas of Chicago, Washington, D.C., Dallas and Austin, Texas, backed by millions in Series B funding. Dom’s Kitchen & Market was founded in 2021 by grocery industry veterans Fitzgerald, Bob Mariano and Jay Owen, starting with a store in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago and continuing with another site in Old Town; construction had been underway in the city’s River North area on a third location. 

Mariano, Owen and LaVitola held advisory positions at Outfox Hospitality until it ceased operations on April 23. In a statement shared on both websites, the organizations declared, “We explored many avenues to continue the business but found no viable option despite good faith and exhaustive efforts. This decision has not been made lightly, and we understand the impact it will have on you, our loyal customers, as well as our dedicated team members…We understand that this news may come as a shock, and we apologize for any inconvenience it may cause. “

Progressive Grocer reached out to representatives for Outfox Hospitality but did not hear back as of press time.

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