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5 Ways Eataly is Changing the Grocery Store Model

By Kyle Rall

Eataly is a store like nothing Chicago has ever seen. The Chicago location of the Italian chain, located at 43 E Ohio St., is a grocery store and a dining experience, as well as a peek into Italian culture. Visitors can dine at Italian restaurants, shop Eataly’s extensive collection of Italian and local goods, and even take cooking classes. The overall experience, care in sourcing products, physical store, atmosphere, and vision make Eataly a driving force in the food market, and Eataly has become a popular destination in downtown Chicago. In fact, over 12,000 people came to the store the first weekend it was open.

Eataly is all about the Experience

As a grocery store, Eataly has a huge selection of Italian groceries.

apples, eataly seafood, eataly

wine, eataly IMAG1040

As a restaurant, Eataly has eight different dining options, including pizza, a shellfish bar, and even a Nutella stand.

piazza, eataly

As a culinary school, Eataly offers classes that focus on traditional Italian food, as well as intro classes covering cheese and wine.culinary school, eataly

All of these elements combine to give Eataly a comprehensive experience that few can match.

“Honestly, it does remind me of Italy and the food my grandma and my aunt used to make,” said Mary Tutera, a local Chicago resident.

Neighboring grocers such as Whole Foods, Potash, and L’Appetito offer food ready to go, and have dining areas. However, no store in Chicago offers the total Italian immersion experience like Eataly.

Eataly is committed to a blend of traditional Italian products and local items

Eataly’s manifesto states “The secret to quality of life? Quality products. By creating and offering the best products, we improve our own lives, and bring added value to yours. Enter a world dedicated to quality: that means quality food, quality drink and ultimately quality time.” salami, eataly

Eataly is very conscious of its suppliers. Every fresh item in the store is marked with its location of origin, and Eataly makes a conscious effort to use only the freshest items. Cheeses are sourced from areas as close as Wisconsin, meat is sourced from farms in the Midwest, and fish is shipped in daily from the coast and surrounding fisheries.

“I like the fact that you can just see where stuff is from. They literally write where everything is from on these cute little signs,” said Sarah Arnoldi, a first time Eataly shopper from Boston.

Eataly wouldn’t be an Italian grocery store without traditional Italian brands. These are selected from carefully vetted suppliers in Italy to be both of the highest quality and to reflect the most authentic Italian dining experience.tomatoes, eataly

Valeria Fanelli, a native Italian, and Eataly Chicago’s press contact, says “I can find everything I used to in Italy.”

Eataly also has high standards for its fresh food. In fact, the moment anything is less than fresh or is damaged in any way, the chefs cook a family meal for the staff or donate the goods to local food banks.

The store itself

The store is huge – 63,000 square feet of space. On the first floor, a coffee bar, Nutella bar, and a dessert counter comprise the instantly edible fare. Italian cookware, cookbooks, and a dairy and dessert section are on the side closest to the registers.

On the second floor, between a pizzeria, bar, coffee counter, and restaurants focused on meat, seafood, and crustaceans, there is no shortage of fine dining to enjoy. While you wait you can shop at a bakery, grab some rustic bread, or enjoy freshly made cheeses and authentic Italian sausages.

The reason this experience is so unique is because it is one-of-a-kind among grocery stores. Whole Foods has a deli counter, but Eataly offers actual sit-down dining experiences. In true Italian style, a fair amount of the eating space is standing only, meant for people to socialize and share food.

To help get a better idea of the store, check out a tour of the store here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5DX1MbUvnM

Atmosphere and Touchability

At Eataly, the employees are extensively trained in the food in their section, and can help you prepare and eat the food you buy. They can tell you how to cook the meat, what wine to pare it with, and recommend things that would compliment the meal.

The staff even offers tips on how to curate this knowledge yourself. As Sabrina Mazza, one of Eataly’s wine and beverage experts notes, “If it grows together, it goes together.”

Vision

This is one of the biggest reasons Eataly has a competitive edge in the Chicago food scene. Eataly has only been in existence worldwide since 2007, and the Chicago location celebrates its one-year anniversary this December.

In Torino, Eataly is planning to create a “food theme park” centered on the food experience from creation to completion. The park will feature a dairy farm, olive trees, and a whole host of producers, whose products will then be sold inside the area. Visitors can see where their food came from, from its literal creation to the finished product they buy on the shelves.

According to Valeria Fanelli, Eataly Chicago’s press contact, the guiding philosophy behind Eataly is “Eat, shop, learn,” and it can be found on posters and materials around Eataly’s stores. “We want them [customers] to learn, to educate them, to understand the food from the producer to the dish,” she says.

Eataly

Eataly Chicago is a unique grocery experience in downtown Chicago. Eataly’s combination of an innovative experience, product quality, intelligent store design, atmosphere, and vision offer something completely different than Whole Foods or Marianos.

  • written by Kyle Rall on October 9th, 2014
  • posted in Edit
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The Hub Bub is a collection of articles, videos, audio, photo slideshows, interactive maps and other media produced by students enrolled in journalism courses at Loyola University Chicago's School of Communication. For more about the School of Communication, our award winning faculty, and our state of the art facilities located in the heart of Chicago, visit our website.