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.
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.
It started with a vision of street food, and has now become 36 successful Burger restaurants with their very own prep kitchen and butchers. Honest Burgers is a chain by number, but an independent at heart – Tom and Phil both believe that the feeling you get when you walk into one of their establishments is the most important aspect to keep customers coming back… And unlike a stereotypical chain, will never compromise or take the easy way out.
There’s a feeling in hospitality that when an independent restaurant is successful and starts replicating itself, it’s in danger of losing its soul – especially when it reaches 20 sites.
That’s why I was keen to chat to this weeks guests, the co-founders of Honest Burgers, Tom Barton and Philip Eeles. I’d heard a few times that they are living proof that this doesn’t have to be the case.
Regular listeners will know that I am passionate about the little guy, and the humans, rather than the brands of hospitality. So with 36 venues and a team of 777, Honest Burgers are – in terms of numbers – a chain. But I wanted to find out how they absolutely, and genuinely, don’t act like one. Have they found the eutopia of the benefits, rather than disbenefits of scale.
What was apparent from our very wide ranging conversation is that they are obsessive about the details and refuse to compromise. They still make all their own chips, and wouldn’t give a frozen version the time of day.
They also have their own butchery which produces chopped – not minced – beef, to deliver the satisfying texture that fine medium-rare burgers deserve. And they encourage the managers of each venue to go out and discover independent food and drink producers to collaborate with.
As you listen, you’ll hear many more examples of how to grow a company and remain true to your principles.
Master Chef and National Chef of the Year winner Steve Groves is cool, calm, collected and really knows his stuff when it comes to being in a kitchen. Steve believes in learning on the job, taking the time and effort to really absorb knowledge from other kitchens and chefs… All whilst making the most of his family life by working as Head Chef in a Monday – Friday kitchen at Roux in Parliament Square.