An operator of sustainable and inclusive community markets, Mercato Metropolitano is a company focused on reinvigorating neighbourhoods and communities to improve people’s quality of life whilst protecting the environment. Here, RLI discusses with Managing Director Amedeo Claris how the company is evolving and growing in the wake of the global pandemic.
The Mercato Metropolitano (MM) story began in 2015 as a parallel event within the Milan International Expo, running a 150,000sq ft pop-up market where it had 2.5 million visitors.
Following this success, they opened their first site in London in 2016 and they now operate two sites, one in Elephant & Castle, a 45,000sq ft site that houses over 35 F&B concepts, a cinema and a cookery school and one in Mayfair, a 20,000sq ft community market set within St Mark’s, a Greek revival style, Grade I listed building that features educational and social activities for local and neighbouring residents along with the retail and dining offer.
The company has not altered their key objectives and expansion plans as a result of Covid-19. Instead, they have spent this unprecedented economic period addressing a number of inefficiencies that a fast-growing start-up inevitably encounters in its initial phase of expansion.
“The project continues to hinge on the same pillars on which it was conceived, such as a community focus, sustainability, food adequacy and inclusion, which now more than ever are needed to address pressing issues,” explains Amedeo Claris, Managing Director of Mercato Metropolitano.
In the coming months, three projects in London will be delivered along with one large market in the heart of Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz. The first is due to open this month and will be a deli and grocer in a newly built residential complex, Elephant Park which is part of the bigger MM Factory project. The MM Factory, which is expected to launch in August, will comprise a number of artisanal laboratories, including bakery, viennoiserie, patisserie and fresh pasta amongst others. The second project, also due to open in August, will be a 6,000sq ft neighbourhood site with a 1,500sq ft music venue in the basement, as part of the newly-built Vertus Building in Canary Wharf. The final London project will be a sustainable and inclusive community market in Ilford, which they are building from the ground up behind Redbridge Town Hall. Meanwhile outside of the UK, Mercato Metropolitano expects to launch Mercato Potsdamer in Berlin in April 2022 within the Arkaden retail complex, which is currently undergoing a total refurbishment.
“Contrary to some other food halls and food courts, which develop a concept and roll it out with a ‘cookie-cutter’ approach, we conceive and design each of our projects around the local community and, while existing footfall is something that we do consider, the most important piece of research we carry out at the outset is thorough community needs mapping,” comments Claris.
Their approach to doing business is focused on creating spaces that the local socio-demographic context demands and on delivering the objectives of the UN Sustainable Development Goals as much as possible.
“We strive to nourish the stomach and the mind. Our guests are repeat customers who enjoy a low level of ‘preaching’ about our values and a high engagement with our offer.”
Incredible importance is now placed on a company’s social media presence, and Claris argues that the most important part of MM’s strategy focuses on ‘word of mouth’, guerrilla marketing and the involvement of its customers and visitors in disseminating their values, ethos and outstanding offers.
“We began creating our expansion PR & marketing strategy at the end of last year, and we decided to place more importance on the ‘network’ effect and the concept of movement, rather than rely on traditional marketing channels, such as influencers.”
The business used the Covid-19 crisis as an opportunity to reflect on their digital strategy and during the lockdowns, they kept their locations open for both physical and online business utilising ready-made solutions for online sales, such as Shopify.
They are designing an online experience that will resemble as closely as possible their offline offering by combining artisan, sustainably sourced food with engagement in the preparation and enrichment through storytelling.
The Mercato Metropolitano model is predicated on adding value through the entire value chain. Using artisan operators they create a benign business environment that does not require large upfront investments from operators. Because of this, MM allows these companies to create a viable model and supports them in all aspects of their start-up and growth, where both can reap the benefits of a successful business.
When discussing the future, Claris explains that in the short-term, Mercato Metropolitano, like the rest of the F&B and hospitality sectors, must continue with nimble and swift acting management in order to make up for the economic decline brought on by the pandemic.
“However, we do see a bright future as we embark on our quest to deliver community-focused offers in the F&B and hospitality space, whilst incorporating international expertise within our networks as we continue to move forward with our glocal approach,” Claris concludes.