As the casual dining sector in general continues to navigate through turbulent times, it is fascinating to see the continued growth of the street food scene. There seems to be a trend in specialising in one or two dishes and being great, rather than big. But whilst the consumer is loving the informality, quality, regularly changing dishes, a keen price point and an ethical impassioned owner, they still desire a space to sit, somewhere to enjoy some drinks with friends and spend a couple of hours on a night out, or a longer lunch, rather than just a few minutes refuelling on the street.
So, curating spaces, communal eating, and easy-access, energised environments for street food vendors to congregate on mass, makes a lot of sense. Add to that an artisan food market, education programme, social conscience and much more, and you start to get into the head space of this week’s guest – Andrea Rasca.
Andrea says that on paper, his venture – Mercato Metropolitano or ‘MM’ – should not exist. He doesn’t advertise; he doesn’t use sponsors or banks; and he certainly doesn’t worry about footfall. That’s because the first two sites of his ‘City Markets’, in London’s Elephant & Castle and Mayfair, welcome thousands of people each week. They’re drawn to MM, not only for the deliciously nutritious food and drink, but also the live music, cookery classes and, at the time I recorded this conversation, a travelling circus!
As he builds his MM movement through word of mouth, Andrea wants each of his mercatos to become a thriving community. Here, the simple act of sharing a tasty meal will help to combat social isolation and food inequality – and, at the same time, encourage talented men and women to turn their cooking skills into successful enterprises.
With interest from cities like Berlin, Paris, New York and Boston, Mercato Metropolitano could well be the next business model in hospitality and food retail, challenging the traditional high street of big brands and formulaic dining.
Enjoy this thought-provoking conversation, with a man who describes himself as ‘Chief Executive Dreamer’ and who also has the drive to make those dreams come true.
Prefer reading to listening? Check out our blog with timestamps, behind the scenes images and juicy quotes here.