I’m a big fan of the Eataly locations that I have encountered in Europe and the US and, like many, I’m excited by the opening of the first UK outpost, a sizeable 42,000 sq. ft. unit scheduled to open in Broadgate in 2020.

While all of the outlets I’ve visited have been beautiful, interesting and have involved the personal inhalation of a great many calories, I’ve often questioned the economics of the sites in terms of their roles as supermarket vs. food hall. Despite these qualms, the formula seems to be generally successful: stores and websites are trading around Europe, Asia and North and South America.

To the best of my knowledge, Eataly has only been unsuccessful in one location: Copenhagen. Opened in November 2016 in the basement of the lovely Illum department store formerly occupied by supermarket chain Irma, Eataly was anticipated to be something of a masterstroke, intended to generate bumper footfall. The venture was operated by some sort of alliance between Illum, Eataly and Irma’s parent company Coop Danmark.

However, after just slightly over a year, the 2,000 sq. ft. outlet closed – apparently by mutual agreement, although local press reports suggested that Eataly was struggling with the rent in a space that was too small for them to do the concept justice.

This was followed in August 2018 with the return of Irma to the Illum basement, part of a new concept called Illum Underground – designed to appeal to gourmets and shoppers keen on vegetarianism, local foods, organic lines etc.

I managed to recently get along to the store and very impressed I was too. I had visited the Eataly while on a rather jolly leisure visit to Copenhagen in 2017 and the basement hadn’t changed too much since then in terms of general design and lay-out aside from Irma replacing the retail component of Eataly, a few changes in the restaurant offering and the introduction of a pharmacy.

The store is intended to be a combination of a destination for foodies looking for special ingredients and wines and an urban c-store that caters for food-for-now and food-for-later. Highlight ranges include deli, cheese, charcuterie, wine, produce and tea and coffee.

Entering the store puts you straight into produce, which I have to say is executed very strongly. Wooden fixtures, crates, display tables and chillers are home to a mix of loose and bagged produce and – while I’m the first to admit that I am total sucker for a fresh herb display – the fresh herb display gets an A+ for effort.

Adjacent to produce is a fairly compact area with chillers devoted to meat, fish, sushi and ready meals – some lovely cross-merchandising throughout – with the service counters selling meat, cheese, deli and ready meals along the back wall. These were all more than charming with some great displays.

World foods was a nice little selection, although I couldn’t spot a dispiriting British range, while the wine department was a real humdinger: an amazing range on some lovely looking kit complete with counter for sampling and wine-tasting sessions.

Tea and coffee was an unexpected treat. The coffee range was incredible and shoppers were able to grind their own beans, as it were, with the tea range offering up a pick ‘n mix style array of loose teas.

The proposition in ambient organics and free-from was more than decent and I was also struck by both the creditable line-up of private label items and the impressive deployment of ESLs.

Given the challenges presented by the lay-out of the basement and the paucity of floorspace, this store somehow manages to combine an ample range with a logical shopper journey and plenty of pleasing visual touches. The burger restaurant next door comes highly recommended too.

Bryan Roberts, Global Insights Director

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