Picture yourself sitting down to a plate of artisanal Piedmontese tagliolini, tossed through a rich parmigiano-reggiano truffle cream – a dish designed to celebrate the ingredients and regions of Italy.
While you may see yourself sitting in an agriturismo farmhouse in the Tuscan countryside or at a cosy trattoria in Rome (we can dream, right?!), embracing a mentality of artisanal produce and a connection to producers is not exclusive to these environments. The decadent pasta dish described above can be whipped up after a trip to Eataly.
This food retailer and eatery, which has a presence across Italy, the USA, Japan and more, is known for its association with Slow Food – the global movement promoting good, clean, fair food, and seeking to empower consumers to be more educated about their food and where it comes from.
In a recent visit to the Eataly store in Florence, I discovered for myself how principles of Slow Food can enrich the in-store experience. Around the shop floor, signage seeks to inform customers about products and production regions. The spirit of connection to land and seasonal eating shows in the month-by-month fruit and vegetable guide perched over crates of produce and packs of seeds.
Past the grocery aisles and up a small set of stairs a casual eatery serves up rustic Italian dishes, while above this, a formal restaurant shifts gear to offer refined fare. Upstairs, various programs are run to bring customers of all ages together for tastings, cooking classes and other gastronomic events.
The effect for Eataly customers is varied, and can play to a number of motivations. On the surface, it’s a store that offers quality Italian produce. For some, the underpinning principles of fair production conditions and accessibility of price may drive patronage. What Eataly achieves from a service perspective, however, is the creation of an experiential space that is not often seen within supermarket retail. It achieves a paradox in that it gives the impression of big business in its reach and breadth of offerings but at the same time feels small and intimate, as there is a sense of lessening the distance between consumer and producer.
In the experience economy, customers value better engagement with service environments.
By empowering consumers with knowledge about products and producers, and offering hands-on dining and learning opportunities, Eataly becomes a site where customers can fully engage in a store experience that is more than just a trip to the supermarket.
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