Eataly: disruption through authenticity

Working across the consumer and retail sectors, it’s important that I know everything there is to know about brands. In order to help me to get to know what’s happening, a visit to the US has always been an imperative – West and East Coast alike. Five years ago, on the recommendation of Jamie Oliver, I became a devotee of the Italian chef, writer and restaurateur, Mario Batali. Mario and his partner Joe Bastianich, along with Joe’s mother, the celebrity chef Lidia Bastianich, are the distinctive forces behind an eclectic group of critically acclaimed – and unanimously adored – restaurants in many parts of the world. I always go to at least one when I am in the USA.

Mario and Joe’s company, B&B Hospitality Group, is an industry leader in sustainability, with fourteen certified Green Restaurants and counting. Their restaurant environments optimise performance and incorporate green initiatives including waste reduction and recycling, disposables, water efficiency and sustainable food, as well as chemical and pollution reduction in every restaurant. So, during my recent trip to New York my first stop for lunch was, as always, Eataly; a food market-cum-dining experience that first opened in 2010. It is a visual feast with retail theatre at its best. Watching someone making mozzarella balls and tortellini, or carving huge chunks of salami, is a real treat to see.

I always presumed that Mario Batali founded Eataly in the Flat Iron District and that New York was the first one. I got it completely wrong! Oscar Farinetti founded Eataly in 2003, opening the first store four years later in an old vermouth warehouse in Turin, and they now have 26 world-wide. When Eataly came to New York in 2010, there were literally queues around the block. The partnership with B&B helped, but the company has since enjoyed success around the world and has plans for further expansion, with a store in Boston this year and a spot in the Selfridges Food Hall in 2016.


Oscar first found success with UniEuro, the supermarket and electrical retailer, which he sold to Dixons in 2003. He is also a member of the Slow Food movement founded by a friend of his, Carlo Petrini. Eataly takes great pains to make sure that customers know where its produce comes from – its authenticity is one of its biggest selling points, and part of the reason why it has managed to be so disruptive so quickly. Shopping for produce is equally as pleasing as having a meal at one of the many food stations of your choice. In an interview with The Economist two years ago Oscar described Eataly’s mission as, “increasing the percentage of people who eat with awareness, choosing high-quality products and paying special attention to the source and processing of raw materials.” Eataly is poised for further expansion and greater success as the world finally climbs out of recession, and its plans to float on the stock market in 2017 are testament to the brand’s huge potential.

How big do you think Eataly can become? Let me know your thoughts at, and have a wonderful weekend.