Archives for posts with tag: Eataly

I left you as we departed last week’s wedding in Queens for Manhattan with the younger party goers still in full swing. But the following morning the energy was more subdued with some very sore heads. And the solution? (indeed what is the solution to most things these days?) well Shake Shack of course. This burger phenomenon has spread over the pond now and was one of the most popular stands at Taste of London this year, believe it or not, and back in New York the queues are still endless.

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We met at the original Madison Square Park site under the trees – a cool outdoor space and 94 burgers later, the friends and family were back on their A game, repleted and waving goodbye to Mr and Mrs K as they departed for their Italian honeymoon. Another clever food ploy from these two and a perfect finale to a wonderful three days.

Mum, Dad, sis and I met that evening for our own get together at Kings County Imperial – a superb Chinese in Williamsburg with their very own soy sauce and their own garden out the back to supplement their organic seasonal produce. It was one of the best Chinese meals I have ever had and was rounded off by us mopping up the remaining cronuts.

Eataly, NYC

Eataly, NYC

I still had a couple of days to explore and having read this Eater article, decided to review the food halls of NYC. The article points to the fashion in Europe for what they call food halls and cite Eataly in NYC as the first of this growing US fashion. Eataly is indeed a place to be visited and the combination of Joe Bastianich and Mario Batali is a marriage in food heaven. The benefit of this is that there is a single overarching style and standard which this duo imposed on the concept moving it on from the originals in Italy. The article also says the new halls are a far cry from the suburban shopping mall food courts but I beg to differ.

I visited all on the Eater New York list and found them to be disappointing experiences. My first foray was to City Kitchen which claims to be a food market with funky signage leading upstairs. There you find good views over 8th Avenue and the queues at Shake Shack opposite but no food market. Rather a strange mix of places with poor seating in the section itself and an overflow going into the adjacent Row hotel which was at least a little more interesting. I really struggled to find anything worth eating and when I decided just to get a drink I was confronted with a New Yorker with attitude that made me feel like I had done something horribly wrong. I am sure that the brands that are there all link back to some great places back in their mother sites but honestly it didn’t connect for me.

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Unperturbed, I progressed to the next on my list which was Gotham West Market and a showcase in how to do the industrial look with quirky comms. I know my timing was a little unfortunate, but again this was too much style over substance for me. I left almost immediately and progressed down towards the World Trade Centre and the shopping centre opposite: home to Le District and Hudson Eats.

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To be fair, Le District was a well designed homage to French cuisine and when you are such a long way away from Europe I am sure that it ticks a lot of boxes.

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The zones inside worked much in the same way as Eataly in Turin and the overall atmosphere was much more enticing and the product range at least made sense in terms of the concept.

A bit further upstairs in the upmarket and yet unfinished Brookfield Place shopping centre is a better but similar version of City Kitchen: a mix of trendy brands each with their own cubicle to serve an edited menu of their dishes. The trouble for me was that it wasn’t as grunge or as a pop up or as slick as the actual restaurant itself, instead a strange combination of the worst of each place. Yes there were bagels and salad bars, ribs and Mexican but sitting together with formulaic seating and lots of trays carrying food that was rapidly going cold, I really couldn’t be inspired to eat anything at all. The best option would be to take away a Sprinkles cupcake which reminded me of a great experience many years ago in LA but I just wasn’t in the mood.

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The final place to try was Gansevoort Market in the Meatpacking district and warily I made my way down there making sure that I went via the Highline and Chelsea Market just in case I was disappointed. These two places are always worth seeing in my eyes when you are in NYC and whilst they were crazy busy they still retained many of the aspects that I enjoy. And so to my final market foray.

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Ganservoort was my favourite of them all. It simply had more atmosphere and a more foodie slant, relating back to the history of the market back in the 1880’s. It reminded me of the Saturday Biscuit Mill market in Cape Town.

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The products were well prepared, the authenticity was more easily communicated within each stand and the seating was more familiar with clusters sitting throughout the area rather than one big central communal melamine topped section. It also falls out onto the Meatpacking district with outdoor seating and more going on which gives a vibrancy that the other shopping centre floors lack.

All in all I have to conclude that the food markets or food halls or whatever the latest marketing says are merely more like the original shopping mall eateries and if you want to create a new community of young vibrant food brands you have to do a bit more than put them in a giant circle around a central seating area. What Eataly has is a connection to how the food is made, the ingredients it comes from and the vibrancy that sitting together and sharing a meal can deliver. As a food hall it allows you to eat in and take home, it gives you more choice and a wide range of all things relating to Italian food. It gives you a story with a message that allows you to connect and therefore feel grounded in its wake.

Nothing new that has cropped up since I first saw Eataly in NYC has come near to matching what it offers. I await with bated breath to see what Antony Bourdain does with his new concept because I know he understands the levers that make great food experiences and combining that with his passion for street food will undoubtedly add up to something more real and tasty than any of these new breeds. I look forward to that.

Those clever people at Eataly have done it again, this time in Chicago.

Eataly Turin produce section with the salad bar adjacent to the produce display

Eataly Turin produce section with the salad bar adjacent to the produce display

I first discovered the concept when H and I were doing a case study for M&S on the original Turin site. The old vermouth factory adjacent to the building that houses the Salone del Gusto was a vast space housing all the necessary zones to showcase the best of the slow food movement. Founder Carlo Petrini of the Slow Food Movement created Eataly with local businessman Oscar Farinetti as a place that would support the sale of all the local slow food producers but in a more commercial environment.

The unique element of the concept was combining the ability to buy the product there to take home or to have a massive team of chefs on hand who were creating dishes to eat in. This juxtaposition of the raw material and the finished product was handled with inimitable Italian style so that the whole experience was one of food discovery, showcasing the best producers and their wares.

To be fair, not everything was perfect and during the morning and afternoon, the somewhat empty space was cold and aloof in places just feeling unconnected but when the Italians came in for lunch or dinner, the place transformed into one which was vibrant and inspiring.

Seasonal produce in the New York shop

Seasonal produce in the New York shop

Enter Mario Batali and the Bastianich crew in the US. In partnering with these guys, the Eataly concept got a new lease of life translating the principles into a central New York hub which addressed the coldness and vast space by the very fact it was centrally located in the Flat Iron district. What the Americans did was add in a pace that simply didn’t exist in Italy. From morning to night, this place is packed. There is a constant buzz around each area that is much more sporadic in Italy. The preparation, cooking and eating in seems to have a new lease of life either at the stand up tables central to the deli area, or alternatively in the well regarded restaurant and everything in between.

New Yorkers stand and snack in the deli zone

New Yorkers stand and snack in the deli zone

Making fresh pasta in store

Making fresh pasta in store

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Design wise, there are things I would do differently, but you really can’t criticise. Everywhere you turn, there are people making products in front of you and the displays are inviting and abundant. It was inevitable that this formula would go further and further, and a couple of weeks ago Chicago opened. Sited on two floors, this is the next evolution and one that is going from strength the strength. There is a new nutella bar to indulge in and a nice balance of space with a central atrium which gives it more breathing space than NYC.

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In its first week, Eataly Chicago was reported to have welcomed 120,000 visitors and 80,000 diners. In fact, the launch week was so outstanding that they had to close for a day in order to restore themselves into serviceable order. How wonderful. I just love the open, honest approach and the genuine appreciation expressed in the latter posted on their website:

“Dear Chicago,

What a week! We have never felt more welcomed! More than 120,000 visited our new location, more than 80,000 dined with us at our restaurants and more than 30,000 Chicagoans purchased our food and enjoyed cooking it at home. Never, ever has another Eataly been as successful as our new outpost in Chicago…therefore we say: THANK YOU, CHICAGO!

You have understood and grasped our “experiential” concept and our love for all things Italian and local, along with our priority for high quality food, and passion for education.

Because of this deep understanding of our manifesto and what we believe in, we have decided to close the store on Monday, December 9th, in order to preserve our standards of quality and service. We want to pay back your love and passion for Eataly Chicago by providing you the best food and the best service.

See you all bright and early on Tuesday at 8AM at our Caffe Lavazza!

Thanks again Chicago,

The Eataly Team”

Good luck Eataly Chicago. Congratulations and I can’t wait to see the first UK outpost which is rumoured to be in the making as I type.

Over the Brooklyn Bridge

Over the Brooklyn Bridge

I am in New York this week taking the Laverstoke project team around on a research trip.

It’s been a couple of years since my last trip and it is interesting to see that many good places have stood the test of time: Eataly, Chelsea Market, Dean & Deluca, Crate & Barrel, Williams Sonoma….all classic favourites of mine continuing to inspire in some way or other.

But the real change is the development of Brooklyn which was getting there last time I was here but is now the must go destination for anyone with an interest in food. It is here that all the exciting concepts are doing their thing and it is here that you connect with passionate people who want to tell you all about it. Some would say that Americans are annoying with their ‘have a nice day’ approach but for me, I find the enthusiasm infectious especially in Brooklyn where it is genuinely placed and much more informed, as well as infectious, than in many UK destinations.

As ever in NYC, the concepts are focused on doing one thing well and we embraced each one with gusto: coffee, ice cream, bakery, beer, pickles, doughnuts, meat, chocolate….plus lots more. I think it is the fact that these guys get the fundamentals that drive good retail: a focused concept, great product, simple relevant branding and cool young things delivering the service offer to underpin it all.

Lovely packaging at Blue Bottle coffee

Lovely packaging at Blue Bottle coffee

Tiered taps reflecting the ale strengths at Torst

Tiered taps reflecting the ale strengths at Torst

Williamsburg is the first stop particularly along Berry street and if you are lucky a weekend chance to eat your way through Smorgasburg market. Particular favourites were Mast Brothers chocolate, Toby’s Estate and Blue Bottle coffee, Torst, OddFellows ice cream and Briskettown. Interestingly two of these concepts (plus the rather lovely pizza place Paulie Gee’s) were designed by hOmE who are obviously a clever bunch. There is an honesty and simplicity that showcases the product to its best potential. At Torst it is the wooden beer taps and glasses that say all that is needed to be said about their range and credibility. At Mast, the open production and piles of cocoa bean sacks give credibility to the product and the central table of beautifully packaged chocolate bars let’s the product do the talking not only in their display but also in their samples.

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Further south going towards Pacific Heights a special mention should go to Brooklyn Brine and in particular Jenny who had us with her passion for pickles. This lovely lady is everything you could dream of having as a member of staff and she was incredibly generous not only in her time showing us around the rear factory and talking us through all they have achieved but also in her insistence that we all took a free jar away with us. Who knew there could be so much joy to be found in a pickle?

Back in Manhattan we pooled our pics and pondered the industrial designs, the clever touches and the beautiful pieces of reclaimed kit that were so achingly trendy but also so raw against these fabulous shiny new brands. We have taken much from our last couple of days and still have so much more to discover so watch this space.

Good old New York…it never disappoints.

 

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I always think that the best retail experiences are created primarily through great visual merchandising. In the retail industry, there are many fashion and home stores that really can deliver that wow factor from the first window right through the store. The shop that immediately comes to mind as the best example of this is Anthropologie.

But in food, there is less style and it is very hard to maintain a sense of interest throughout the shop. Many would say that Eataly is the answer in food, but for me they capture it in places and not in others. It can be cold, in some of the Italian versions and cluttered in NYC. Yes, it is a great start but not one that can’t be bettered.

Biscuit displays the Rosendals Tradgard way

Biscuit displays the Rosendals Tradgard way

Food is simple with added touches for a unique look and feel

Food is simple with added touches for a unique look and feel

The place that did it for me was Rosendals Tradgard in Stockholm. This botanical garden had a unique style and elegance that translated into their small shop encapsulating the brand perfectly. Clever use of unusual items were there to display goods, food was kept simple yet different and the overall effect was one that had me going back and back. It really did gel the brand values with the customer experience. One to visit, for sure.

Now I am trying to create a food store that does the same for the company I am working for. No pressure! I can be as critical as I like but now I have to put my money where my mouth is and do it for real. So this week I ventured to a trade show that would fill in the visual merchandising gaps that were left from the food fair last week. Top Drawer is one of the best shows for me to find what I am looking for. It has a standard of trader that is at the right level and if you open your imagination, then all sorts of things are up for grabs.

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Nkuku is a great place to start. It is an eco friendly, fairtrade gift and home supplier sourcing primarily from Africa and India, although they tell me they are expanding into Morocco and the Far East more this year. I was drawn to it, not just because it is my natural taste, but also because it is organic, honest and simple, reflecting a lot of the brand values that exist on the farm. It will be essential to cherry pick, there is no doubt, and sometimes surprise, but I could really begin to piece things together standing there on that stand.

I bet your first thought was not perfect box for displaying biltong when you saw this?!

I bet your first thought was not perfect box for displaying biltong when you saw this?!

Hop-Peck-1Hop & Peck is a company I earmarked way back last Spring and it was lovely to be reminded again how great these guys are. Their hand made British homewares match traditional Oak with fun modern designs to being something just a little bit different to the home market. I can see us cross merchandising these into our different sections to add interest and novelty. It was great to see them win the Top Drawer best new gift product award at the show as well. Much deserved.

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I always thought I had an eye for the expensive, but apparently it is the award winners too as I had spotted the best new wellbeing product too, even thought I was only passing through the wellbeing section. Rewined Candles are American soy candles made in Charleston from recycled wine bottles. The fragrances nod to the notes of the individual wines. They really are something new and now available in the UK.

Lots of hares which had clearly been jugged!

Lots of hares which had clearly been jugged!

After all that VM speculation it was great to meet friends later on to pursue our quest to find a great Sunday lunch. We are working our way through a list of so called great places which normally underwhelm but our hopes were high when we arrived at the Jugged Hare. With my creative hat on, it was great to see somewhere embrace their theme without it appearing like DisneyWorld. Maybe it was the harsh reality of all those animal and bird heads on display, but we all agreed that we liked what they had done with the place.

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The food got off to a good start too as we shared kedgeree croquettes, breaded skate knobs with a fabulous tartar sauce and the very in season grouse legs which smelled (and tasted) of horse manure! Lovely. But sadly our journey continues as the mains didn’t come up to scratch. The meat was lovely, but veg woefully under-done. Shame. The lovely lady serving was a fine example of how to handle our disgruntled bunch but after so much promise I can’t see us rushing back.

So I leave you with a few birds that hopefully didn’t lose their lives in vain – displayed on the way to the loo. Let’s hope their dishes were more rewarding to whoever ate them.

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