Andrea Rasca, a lot like Mark Cribb himself, has a real love for the ‘little guy’ when it comes to hospitality. Andrea has full control of what goes on down at Elephant & Castle where we find ourselves in this weeks podcast… He ensures that his vendors only use sustainable sources when under his roof, and offers them the opportunity to help him change peoples lives. He doesn’t believe in advertising his business Mercato Metropolitano, he believes word of mouth and true, human connections will do the trick… Turns out, he was right.
00:00:00 Marks introduction
00:03:06 Meeting Andrea Rasca, setting the scene in an old, ex-abandoned factory that is now Elephant & Castle
- 00:05:13 “We don’t like big. And in food business, I believe this is what has ruined most of our lives. Even though we are a big place, we are composed of small units, so in the end we are just a platform for new talents.”
- 00:05:58 “At the moment, we have 20% Italians – which is the perfect recipe for everything! And then we have local people coming here… We have a big diverse city!”
- 00:08:45 “Whatever you put in your body, whatever you eat. If you eat it with someone else, I bet that whatever you ingest will make you stronger if you eat it with someone else.”
00:10:31 What is hospitality about?
- 00:11:00 “My mother, my grandmother were always cooking. I was always cooking with them, eating what they were cooking and we always had a lot of people at the table. Friends, cousins, whoever.”
00:12:07 What is the maximum capacity for Elephant and Castle?
- 00:13:24 If you… “Concentrate too much on the visual and the material you use to make a kitchen or even just a table… It means youre not spending enough time on the quality of ingredients, of training your people, of giving the right atmosphere. Our tables cost £30 each because they are made from the wood a carpenter would use.”
00:14:40 Why Andrea Rasca doesn’t sell mainstream, big brand alcohol in his establishments
- 00:15:00 “When people come in and tell me ‘you need to sell this, you need to sell that or your clients won’t come’… I said, I hope so because we are already at four million people! I don’t need more clients! [Laughter].”
- 00:18:19 “The moment in which any of this beer goes into the retail system, we stop buying it.”
00:19:19 Why are people less healthy? Is it the lack of knowledge from consumer, or retailer?
- 00:20:10 “Instead of telling people ‘don’t drink this, don’t drink that’… This is not the right way to look at people. Imagine a kid. You tell them they can’t eat that, the first thing they want to eat is that. So just by giving a positive example you induce people to think differently.”
00:22:43 Getting back to wholefoods and the issues with supermarkets
- 00:23:38 “Which states that now, more people die because of food than people who smoke for the first time in history. And it’s not because of what they eat, it’s because of what they do not eat anymore.”
00:24:37 Opening a stoneground flower mill – like previous guest Michael Stoates!
- 00:27:20 “This is the paradox of the modern socioeconomic system. We give price to things instead of value and that’s something we have to change.”
00:28:31 The inspiration that started Mercato Metropolitano
- 00:32:20 “No advertising. First of all because we had no money to do it, second because I don’t believe you should advertise food – if you have to advertise food there’s something wrong already. People should talk about it, so word of mouth. No wifi – because I had no money to do it.”
00:39:23 Inequality of food – talking about food and hunger
- 00:40:29 “We found that there’s so much to do. There are kids who don’t have three meals per day in London, some kids can’t have one meal a day.”
- 00:43:23 “We are not doing lots, but we are doing something for each community where we open and we are not asking for any grants or money, because we are always making enough money to do this.”
00:44:02 The change in attitude toward social responsibility
00:45:38 Are all the providers under Andrea’s roof guaranteed to make money?
00:47:22 The growth of Mercato Metropolitano
00:48:10 The female entrepreneurship scheme
- 00:48:15 “What we realised as one of the issues in hospitality is that you see a lot of incredible women in this business but not as man entrepreneurs in this business.”
- 00:51:02 “We like to change at least 26% of the vendors every six months because we want to have new things and give opportunities. Some of the vendors here opened up their own stores… After six months here they then have the same values!”
00:51:42 Why has Andrea Rasca got chefs?
- 00:52:00 “We can open their fridges whenever we want. We control their ingredients. We have a sustainable team who controls every single supplier and invoices.”
00:53:07 Why other food halls fail…
00:54:07 Team training and Andrea’s operations team – making sure everyone is working together!
- 00:55:48 “We are sincere. We believe in what we do, and people feel it and they come by word of mouth.”
- 00:56:05 “I think if you’re not obsessed with what you do, you cannot achieve anything big. You can achieve something good, but not something incredibly big and important.”
00:58:28 Monitoring how much the vendors pay, ensuring all the staff get paid £10.55 an hour
00:58:49 Food waste – and creating a farm on the roof!
- 01:02:36 “This is a fight I’m going to start now that I have a market. Because I can tell you to grow a good vegetable – but who’s going to buy it if it costs three times the price? I’m going to buy it.”
01:03:35 You need a mass people to create a movement – that’s why London works so well for Andrea
01:04:28 The future for Mercato Metropolitano – is Andrea Rasca looking to expand outside of London?
01:06:24 The Farm think tank & AM Ambassadors
- 01:08:13 “We need to develop. We cannot grow something in a finite world. Someone else is growing, fewer people are growing and more people are starving because we have not solved this issue with industrial farming.”
01:11:30 Is venture capitalisation of hospitality an issue just in the UK?
- 01:14:04 “To build an empire out of it – they’re going to kill it because they start looking at the costs of goods instead of offering a better value to their clientele because they need to make these three-month profit schemes for their own investors.”
01:15:37 Is the issue of capitalism and greed something you would find in Italy too?
01:17:30 Does Andrea still travel a lot for inspiration?
- 01:17:46 “You need to be exposed to as many countries as you can to then attract them and create this mix of cultures inside your own places.”
01:18:44 What gives Andrea the most rewarding feeling within his job?
01:20:16 To find out more about Andrea and join his movement, where do you need to go?
01:21:49 Marks final thoughts and sign off
If you want to learn more about Andrea Rasca, his dream to help change the world (even if it’s one person at a time) and how he’s shaking up the restaurant industry – check out the Mercato Metropolitano website and social pages below… Or, listen to the full episode here.