Eataly is an Italian grocery market-cum-restaurant emporium-cum-enoteca slash bakery slash cheese shop, and business is booming. Its 50,000-square-foot New York City location, across from Madison Square Park, is doing $85 million in annual revenue. Its even larger counterpart in Chicago, which opened in late 2013, is on pace to hit $50 million this year, nearly matching the gross sales of its flagship store in Turin, Italy. And that’s on top of the 15 other Eataly locations in Italy; the 11 in Japan; and the large-scale outposts soon opening in Hong Kong, London, Moscow, Munich, Paris, São Paulo, Sydney, and Toronto, among other cities.
The aim was to build a store that harked back to old-style markets such as the bazaars of Istanbul or the fish markets of Sicily, where 30-year-old CEO Nicola Farinetti says “there is no distinction between restaurant and retail: You can eat and buy, or buy and eat.” Its first location was 110,000 square feet and could certainly have been accused of being a modern-day megastore, but its embrace of high-end ingredients and foodie culture made it feel special. And Eataly customizes itself in each new city, which makes each one feel like a destination—and perhaps explains why 40% of Eataly’s customers in New York are tourists.
“To me, this isn’t a market or a restaurant, but something else altogether, which gives me much more room to do crazy things,” says Farinetti—by which he means art shows, meet-the-cheese-monger events, wine tastings, and more. “Imagine if I tried to do a crazy event at Whole Foods. People would get mad, like, ‘I just came here to shop!’ But because this is Eataly, I can do all this stupid stuff and people understand it.”
Eataly’s Instagram account has plenty of food porn, of course, but it also announces special events like this one—a Meet the Monger event in Chicago, where cheese lovers can fully geek out:
[Photos: Daniel Shea]