Brexit, pandemic and deserted offices cause smart working: the three challenges of Eataly which opens its largest store in London

LONDON – Eataly opens the store of the largest chain in Europe in the English capital. Built on two floors for a total of 4000 square meters with an offer of 5000 products and a wine shop that has up to 2000 bottles, it is located next to Liverpool Station, the third busiest hub in the United Kingdom capable of moving in time of pre-pandemic something like 65 million passengers a year between entry and exit.

The jewel of the Farinetti family takes root in an iconic city, essential to carry on the project of spreading made in Italy in the field of food and wine worldwide, but it undoubtedly does so in one of the most difficult historical moments. Difficult for England struggling with the restrictions dictated by the pandemic, and for Eataly London itself which has to deal with a whole new management of imports and relations with the parent company in Italy, due to Brexi. In fact, the inauguration of the store took place a few days ago, Thursday 29 April, a moment that sanctioned for the UK four months from the official closure of all relations with the European Union.

By divorcing Brussels, London left the Single Market, not even recognizing the laws that regulate the free movement of people between member countries. Two aspects that the store manager Matteo Ferrio, 31 years old from Alba and in the company since 2009, he had to take a lot of consideration already when more than three years the opening in London was announced. To these two critical issues, partly foreseen given that the referendum on Brexit dates back to June 2016, was then added the pandemic, unexpected instead for everyone, which postponed the inauguration initially scheduled for the end of last year. How to import products, how to hire staff and how to navigate the current anti-contagion restrictions imposed by the government, in the end they turned out to be the main problems to be solved for the new management even before deciding how to arrange the products in the deli department or which wine list to present to the English clientele.

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“Brexit is certainly having an impact on the final cost of some products – explained the CEO Nicola Farinetti – but it is difficult to talk about a general average increase by comparing the prices between the pre and post exit from the EU. This is because, by directly importing from our Italian parent company, and not from individual suppliers, we have our own internal management that allows us to individually review each cost and therefore smooth out where possible, making sure that some products can reach London without Brexit actually impacting them. final price. I also add that we are still very well-established in terms of customs management and duties with third countries, being already present in 16 countries around the world. For this reason that the United Kingdom, no longer part of the ‘European Union, is now considered a third country on a par with the United States, Japan and others. We do nothing but adapt to all the local regulations in import, even if for the United Kingdom the issue is relatively fresh and still being defined “.

“Just in January we recorded some inconveniences at the borders entering England, where our first trucks of goods arrived from Italy had difficulty moving, delaying deliveries – added store manager Matteo Ferrio -. Brexit yes was implemented a few days ago and the local customs still had to complete the running-in on the new regulation imposed by the British authority on the import of food. A delay that, fortunately, did not cause us major problems, given that due to the lockdown we were forced to postpone the opening of a few months, then having all the time to manage the return of the lost time. Something instead could happen towards the month of October when there will be some changes to the customs regulation that the British government is preparing to implement. In that period, hoping to be at full capacity, we could perhaps register some new inconvenience especially on the appearance of the imports of wines and alcohol, which however we are already preparing to face. No problem, however, for the agreements entered into with local English companies from which Eataly London orders all the milk necessary for the entire range of dairy products made fresh daily, and part of the fruit, vegetables, meat and fish with which we balance the offer. of the fresh to accompany the Italian one “.

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Separate chapter for the staff hiring. The company plans to complete the staff with a total of 300 employees in September, when the restaurant is scheduled to open, which will bring all the 4000 square meters of the structure up to speed. “I admit that Brexit initially put us a little on the alert on this aspect as well – explained Ferrio – having the fear of not being able to count on many Italian professionals already present in London, especially among the younger ones. Instead, the response to our job offers was very high and fast. Especially since we started looking for staff between October and November, when the hospitality sector had suffered a severe blow with forced closures and many restaurants and hotels had chosen to layoff. their employees or even firing them as a consequence of the definitive closure of the activity. For many of these young people we have represented a lifeline that has allowed us to have a team ready for opening well in advance. of a staff made up entirely of people who already lived in the English capital before the divorce with Brussels and before the pandem broke out ia, as in the case of executive chef Eliano Crespi, who has been in London for 15 years. Currently the staff is made up of 50% Italians and 50% from other countries of the world “.

With two crucial issues under control, import management and staff hiring in times of Brexit and the pandemic, a crucial issue still remains: the recovery of the consumer market. A recovery that will soon determine the success of Eataly London considering that it has opened in London, a metropolis of almost 9 million people, but where one of the main businesses is represented by financial services which for the most part have been transferred from offices to employees’ homes by transforming the City, the area where the new Farinetti store has just opened, into a ghost area. The confirmation also comes from the 30% drop in commuter travelers recorded right from Liverpool Street station during the recent weeks, to which is added the total absence of tourists given that leisure travel is still blocked. An unknown factor that could be resolved starting next May 17 when a new easing of restrictions on a national scale will be triggered, which will allow people to return to move freely even more and to return to eat even in closed places. But, for the return to the offices, the future is still uncertain.

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