The Eataly concept was born in November 2002, from an idea sketched by Oscar Farinetti. The idea was simple: to gather under one roof high-quality food at sustainable and reasonable prices for all, celebrate Italian biodiversity, and create an informal, natural and simple place to eat, shop and learn. Here, RLI sits down with Nicola Farinetti, CEO of Eataly USA to learn how the company is growing and evolving.

Afusion of two words, eat and Italy, Eataly stands for “Eating Italian” and encompasses the history and the food culture of Italy, the ease of preparing dishes and the many qualities that Italy has to offer. Following five years of market research and preparation work, the first Eataly opened its doors in Torino on January 27th 2007, when an old vermouth factory was transformed into Eataly Torino Lingotto to become the first multifunctional marketplace dedicated to Italian excellence in the world.

In the last thirteen years the company Eataly has over 40 locations worldwide across 12 countries including Italy, Germany, Sweden, USA, Canada, Brazil, Japan, Korea, Qatar, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. Last year was a tremendous one for the business, as they opened their first-ever Canada Eataly in Toronto in November, as well as its Paris location in April. As its presence continues to grow globally, so too does the company’s reputation, and opening in new locations is allowing the brand to bring the taste of Italy to new and exciting markets. “The first location in Canada is a 50,000sq ft store in Toronto’s Yorkville neighbourhood which spans three floors and features a market, four restaurants, seven counters, two cafes and a Birroteca. The new site showcases both local and Italian products that are carefully sourced by company experts,” explains Nicola Farinetti, CEO of Eataly USA.

Looking forward, the company is pursuing an aggressive growth strategy of two openings per year with a focus on North America and Europe. In 2020, they expect to open in Dallas, US and London, UK and next year they are on track to open in Silicon Valley, California, US. The current focus for Eataly is on European capitals and major North American markets, but they are constantly looking for their next location. At any given time, they have 20-30 cities in mind for expansion and then they look for the perfect location in each. So how do the company stay at the cutting edge of the market? “Eataly is a unique experience for all guests and the products we offer represent an unprecedented level of variety and quality, ensuring that there is something that will appeal to every guest. Our guests are encouraged to view themselves as co-producers. When they shop in-store, they become a partner in the production process, supporting producers from near and far,” says Farinetti.

Embracing social media, Eataly is always excited to share with the world what is happening in each store and they enjoy the fact that they are able to give customers a behind the scenes look at what they can offer. This philosophy also extends to the company’s marketing strategy, as they feel this gives them the opportunity to share their vision, values and activities with its customers. Eataly locations are designed to educate guests from the moment they walk in, creating a comfortable environment that encourages questions and discovery, celebrates accessibility and provides a diverse selection of goods at all price points. “We consider our locations as not only places to eat, but also places to shop and learn. No-one else is combining the retail and restaurant components as we are. We value both aspects equally and provide the best-in-class experience of each for our guests’ varied needs, price points and tastes,” Farinetti explains.

The ethos behind Eataly is Eat, Shop, Learn, and what the company does is create an accessible experience that encourages all guests to Eat sustainably sourced fare with quality ingredients, Shop the best local and Italian products and feel empowered to Learn about Italian culture and cuisines. Farinetti feels that the company’s biggest challenge over the years was to convince consumers that quality food is important for their bodies and the world. He explains that when they first started out, people were not talking about food the way they are now.

An interest in healthy food and sustainability is of growing importance to consumers, which is making their jobs slightly easier. “Real estate is also always a challenge. It’s difficult to find 40-50,000sq ft of space in the right location. We are lucky that our track record and number of customers prompt many landlords to reach out to us directly. It can be hard to find the perfect spot, but there are always possibilities.” We conclude the time with Farinetti by asking is there anything else he feels that makes Eataly stand out from the crowd in a saturated F&B industry? “Our stores offer an incredible amount of experiences. From rare wine tastings to producers visiting the store with their products, our stores always have something going on. Everybody always wants to talk about experiential retail, and Eataly is one of the few who do it on a daily basis.”