KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia − Great ideas are not always revolutionary and often, not really complicated. What makes them powerful, far-reaching and long-lasting are: a clear philosophy behind them, fairness to all the parties involved mixed with a bit of fun. It seems everything has been invented in the restaurant scene, but every now and then new concepts emerge, pulling together pre-existing needs and offerings, but combining them all in a new package and experience and they end up taking the world by storm.
Eataly is a clear example. This fresh market-come-restaurants’ concept was born less than a decade ago, when its founder, Oscar Farinetti – the successful owner of a electronic retail group – decided to take the plunge by selling his business and embracing what was always a latent passion of his: food. Oscar set out with a renewed philosophy, born out of his affiliation with the Slow Food movement, a manifesto that he displayed and repeated over and over again, where the love for food, the stories behind it and its communal value are central.
Eataly is a place where quality is not a word, but something you can see and touch, and where food is not only bought and consumed, but where you can learn about it through an impressive array of courses.
Oscar took over a massive, dilapidated factory on the outskirts of his native Turin to turn it into his dream: a marketplace from small producers, with ingredient-themed restaurants scattered throughout. And what a ride it was – Eataly now features the same concept on three different continents, with a mix of Italian and locally sourced products.
I spent a rather fulfilling afternoon visiting their original venue in Turin, and it was true to my expectations. Beautifully displayed products and a very engaging staff without the usual rip-offs you experience in high-end delis. All over the place there were quirky signs of humour (‘Toilets are conveniently located next to the beers section!’, read one) and invitations to try, experience and test.
Mind you – I have not been bought by this like it is a new cult: it is clearly a business. The main point, in their own words:
Our goal is to have you as our customer for a lifetime. The easiest means to that end is offering [our clients] the best food and drink as well as the best environment in which to discover and expand your tastes.
The huge success Eataly is enjoying deserves recognition, moreover so in a recession stricken Italy, where only gloom abounds nowadays. In a context where you hear only never-ending tirades of the whole country being doomed and without a future, Eataly and Farinetti have proven you can take something as simple as selling and preparing food to a whole new level while at the same time making it irresistible, helping small businesses, informing consumers and redeveloping a run down section of the city. A business for sure, but fair to all!