Bravo! to Eataly World


Gary A. White, President, P'Chelle Internationaal

Gary A. White, President,
P’Chelle International

Eataly World has captured the attention of the world’s food and beverage industry, offering an inspiring example to economic developers worldwide.

Located in Bologna, Italy the project was conceived in 2013, with its grand opening slated for the summer of 2017.  Although hardly a large project with only 20 acres (roughly the size of Buckingham Palace), those acres are thoroughly developed.

Eataly World will contain ten classrooms, 40 processing facilities, 43,000 sq. ft. of convention space, 79,000 sq. ft. featuring 25 Italian restaurants (what else?), 105,500 sq. ft. of markets and stores  and 107,600 sq. ft. of demonstration fields (vegetable gardens and fruit orchards), two aquariums and five animal breeding farms.

They hope to attract six million visitors  annually (1.5 million foreigners, 4 million Italians and 500,000 school children on culinary field trips). Six million seems a bit far-reaching, but then Bologna has developed a significant tourism industry that Eataly World will only enhance.

The project is divided into six different “Food Worlds”…..Fish, Meat and Eggs; Milk and Dairy Products; Cereals; Fruit and Vegetables; Drinks and Dressings and Desserts. One can conveniently travel from one “Food World” to the next on original Bianchi three-wheeled bicycles (the world’s oldest bicycle manufacturer still in existence, founded by Edoardo Bianchi in Milan in 1885) with special shopping baskets and a small refrigerator. The projected cost is $55 million with projected revenue of $118 million by 2019. Since admission is free-of-charge, income will primarily depend on leasing space to food and beverage processors, restaurants, markets, shops and event rentals.

The vision of Eataly World is to, “tell the world about the excellence of Italian food and wines and the beauty of the Italian agri-food industry, combining local tradition, culture of high quality food and the expertise of those who have been working forever in the agri-food chains.” This vision, and some of its investment, comes from the highly successful Eataly Italian marketplace superstores (featuring restaurants, food and beverage counters, a bakery, retail items and a cooking school) with 12 units currently in operation world-wide and another 12 on the drawing board. Obviously, no shortage of ambition here. But, when one has a great and successful concept, run with it! The company enjoys annual sales of approximately $350 million. The Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, featuring famous chef Mario Batali,  is identified as an investor, at least in the United States.

The primary players in Eataly World are the Centro Agroalimentre di Bologna (one of the leading wholesale distribution facilities in Italy) who donated the property, Eataly, Coop Alleanza (the largest Italian food cooperative and one of the largest in Europe) and Prelios SGR (the Italian fund-managment company that has supposedly raised $116 million from investors, and hopes to raise more than $500 million for similar projects world-wide, primarily in Asia). Investors in the project are the ENPAM Pension Fund,  Coop Adriatic (a partner in the Coop Alleanza), Banca IMI, Unindustria Bologna and the Bologna Chamber of Commerce. Eataly World will be promoted by the Municipality of Bologna and administered by a partnership between Eataly and the Coop Alleanza.

In choosing a city to plant the Italian food flag, Bologna, the capital and largest city  in the Emilia Romagna region (population of 4.5 million), approximately halfway between Florence and Milan in northern Italy,  is the ideal candidate. Bordered by the Adriatic and Mediterranean Seas, comfortably nestled in the fertile Po River Valley, at the foot of the Apennine Mountains, Bologna has long been recognized as the gastronomic capital of Italy. It is especially known for its cured meats such as prosciutto, mortadella and salumi.

The Bologna food processing industry features such companies as the Granarolo Group…..founded in 1957 as the Bologna Consortium of Milk producers, an international company specializing in Italian dairy and specialty food products and the Massimo Zanetti Beverage Group, founded in 1973 by Massimo Zanetti, is the largest private coffee company in the world.  Massimo Zanetti is known for such famous brands as Chock Full O’Nuts, Chase and Sanborn, MJB, Hills Brothers, the Kauai Coffee Company, La San Marco espresso machines and over 600 Segafredo Zanetti Espresso cafés around the world, supported by 11 roasting plants.


Oh yes, another “food and/or beverage theme park”, supported by the best and the brightest people and organizations in the community and the industry, costing millions of dollars, much of it in public funds and private contributions, and hoping for millions in income. Don’t get me wrong I love the basic concept of such developments as La Cité du Vin (Bordeaux, France) or even the ill-fated Copia (Napa, California). Their impact on economic development can be enormous! But, funding based on continuing public sector generosity and benevolent enthusiasm usually, like smoke in the wind, disappears.

The public and benevolent contributor model are great, and often necessary, for initial start-up capital.  In the economic development world, this is often the case. But,the project eventually needs to be self-supporting (within 3 – 5 years), hopefully providing positive cash flow that can be reinvested in the project and the community. Admission charges for any project associated with the word “museum” will likely be disappointing. I like Eataly World because it appears to be a larger version of the very popular and successful Eataly Italian marketplace superstores. Leasing space and building a brand to support the tenants in that space is a viable long-term economic model.  I believe Eataly World will also be the crown jewel in furthering the development and positioning of the food and beverage industrial cluster in Bologna. Bravo! to Eataly World. 

Let’s talk! I would greatly appreciate hearing about your ideas and experiences regarding industrial clusters and industrial theme park concepts. Please, give me a call at 509-539-3575 or send me an email at

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This article was written by: Gary A. White

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