Photo Kentaro Toma

Despite sales dropping 30% in the pandemic, Eataly presses ahead with international expansion

How does one describe Eataly? For some it’s a foodie’s haven, for others an emporium of restaurants, shopping and culinary classes. A less favourable and cynical comment I heard was ‘Disneyland for pasta.’ 

Founded in 2006 in Moniticello d’Alba, the business has over 40 stores in over 18 countries. Its most successful market by far has been North America. Here the Madison, NY store turns over $85m a year, and Chicago $50m. Pre-covid annual sales exceeded Euro700m.

Photo Massimo Virgilio

There are different ownership structures globally. In Asia-Pacific for example the business is run by Japanese trading house Mitsui and restaurant chain Kichiri, together they own over 96% of the (Asia-Pacific) franchise. (A concession I think the Italian head office now regrets). As an aside I suspect the business underperforms in Japan, the stores are small, and neither Mitsui nor Kichiri are at the cutting edge of retail.

Growth is built on authenticity and provenance; Eataly has it in droves.

“We have done well on the topics of quality, originality, freshness, digestibility, history & traditions. It is now time to add sustainability to these topics.”


However Covid significantly curtailed foot traffic, especially to restaurants which account for 50% of revenue. Global sales dropped, a store in Italy was shut, and according to the Italian press, shareholders were tapped for refinancing plus a new loan agreement worth Euro100m.

Despite these set backs, not to mention a few management upheavals, in May, Eataly opened its first London store. It’s in Broadgate next to Liverpool street station. It’s a great location, right in the City of London. This store covers 2 floors and features cocktail bars, a cafe, pasta restaurants, a pizzeria, an ice cream parlour plus a wine shop with more than 2,000 Italian labels.

Eataly London dessert

Eataly’s bet is that workers are going back to the office. 

Given the drop in physical foot flow you’d imagine Eataly had dialled up its EC business. This seems to be patchy, just last October it signed an agreement with Mercato for same-day delivery in downtown New York City, Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Across the pond in London, although the physical emporium is open, the online store is yet to take clicks.

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