Maine

Portland Ghost Kitchen Owner Tells Employees His Company Will File for Bankruptcy

The owner of a “ghost kitchen,” which advertises over 75 brands on grocery delivery apps and prepares food in the old Pok-Pok Building in northwest Portland, told employees in a Saturday message that the company was filing for bankruptcy this week become.

John Wirtz wrote the following to his staff on Sunday evening, just over two weeks later ww wrote in a December 15 story about his business and his 2018 felony conviction in Washington County for raping a 14-year-old girl.

A former employee shared a screenshot of the message ww

“For anyone asking, I don’t have good answers for you, Homage Industrial Kitchen will enter Chapter 11 bankruptcy and restructuring next week,” Wirtz wrote. “From this skeleton crew we will try to run the business as best we can in January and hopefully have some answers for his future. If not, the company will go into liquidation with all debts and liabilities settled.”

Wirtz added: “This means, among other things, that anyone who has company property or keys must surrender them, as they will be registered in the court files and will need to be tracked.”

ww visited the shop on Monday afternoon. A sign on the door read CLOSED. A delivery man knocked on the glass door, which was blocked by a stack of containers and boxes. A man sitting at the counter inside, who appeared to be Seth Thayres’ chief financial officer, yelled at him that it was closed.

(Thayres was a Salem cop for several years until he was arrested and convicted for stealing over $30,000 from businesses along with an accomplice. He fled to Florida shortly after being indicted on another charge. He became a couple years in prison. Court documents show.)

ww also knocked on the pok pok door. The man pointed to the sign and shouted “Closed!”. When ww He knocked again, he screamed again and threw up his hands in desperation.

Solicited by WW for comment, Wirtz offered a statement, which read in part: “Intention to create [our company]…was to add value to the community in the most positive way possible…and your actions and words were very hurtful but not to me [to] about 43 other good people who have to explain to their families and friends every time this increases the drug that I am the kind of person I am and try to continue to be rather than what happened in my past is.

In the last two years, seven former Wirtz’s employees filed complaints with the Oregon Bureau of Labor & Industries alleging withheld paychecks, unpaid overtime and stolen tips. All complaints were still being investigated in mid-December.

When ww spoke to Wirtz in mid-December, he praised his business model as “business by numbers”. (He also claimed that Homage produced the most food of any ghost kitchen around the world.)

“Let’s say you have a new person who switches to DoorDash and they don’t recognize any of the brands,” Wirtz said at the time. “If there are 10 brands out there and you own five of them, you have a 50 percent chance they’ll pick you.”

He said ww that 85% of its brands’ menus are identical to similar cuisines—let’s say Breakfast Burrito Fetish and Blessed Burrito Bowls.

The ghost kitchen model became relevant when the pandemic shut down in-person dining in 2020. Similar to Wirtz, but nationwide, Miami-based Reef Technology capitalized on the burgeoning market. However, a recent study by WW found that Reef’s footprint in Portland is shrinking rapidly.

Some of Wirtz’s 70 brands listed on apps including Grubhub and DoorDash as of Monday afternoon were listed as temporarily closed. The profile for one of those brands on Doordash, Panini Dreamin’, listed that it was not taking orders “due to high demand.”

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