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A month after Eataly’s grand opening in Toronto, and Time Out Market’s new location in Montreal, its time to take a look at these food hall-esque attractions. Both models are sized close to a large grocery store but are modeled more as a community hub. So just what makes them work?

Eataly – Ambassador of Italian Culture

Through our global partner Ebeltoft and through our own travel, JCWG has had the opportunity to visit many Eatalys across the globe. Eataly is tied to a mission of sharing Italian food and culture, and this defines a number of key differences between it and Time Out Market. Eataly tends to make its home in culturally significant locations, using its power as a destination to draw from a huge area, even outside the city it is located in. For example, the new Eataly in Toronto will give the nearby McEwans a run for its money, but McEwans can grow if it can focus on promoting its convenience factor. In fact, both Eataly and Time Out Market act as special attractions; visiting one warrants slightly looser pockets as shoppers pay a premium not only for their products but for the emotional experience. Eataly locations are heavily curated, and weaves together its offerings in a way that keeps the experience integrated in a way that is only possible when there are no individual operators. Seating is tied to specific areas and products, variable in their style and layout so that a café area feels like a café, and a bakery feels like a bakery, again tying in this idea of an Italian marketplace.

Time Out Market – Ambassador of Local Culture

Originally a social commentary magazine, Time Out opened the first Time Out Market in 2014. Time Out Markets aim to bring the best of each city that it is located under one roof, acting as a destination for both tourists looking to experience the city and locals who are looking for something familiar. Unlike Eataly locations, Time Out Markets tend to be located in more generic real estate, taking advantage of small store frontage but large square footage to animate real estate that normally wouldn’t work out for a different sort of tenant. Their fundamental effect is to democratise fine dining. Small or family run businesses that are the heart of their neighbourhood simply don’t have the capital to open a new or bigger location, but Time Out Market provides that platform for them. On the other hand, brands that do have the capital can still open a location in the Market for less, further equalizing operators. This idea of socialized or democratized eating points directly to Time Out Market’s original roots in radical social commentary.

The Same but Different

While both concepts are similar, they are very telling examples about what is important in retail – and food – today. While the focus is common to both on food, it’s the community entrenchment that establishes them as destinations worth visiting.

So, are they worth visiting? When comparing the turnout for Eataly Toronto, where there were line ups out the door, to Time Out Market Montreal, there’s a very distinct difference. And ultimately this difference comes from the contrast in their models. Eataly is a known entity across the world, not just as a brand but as a format. Most Eataly locations are very similar, they have a proven concept. Visiting a new Eataly is both a new experience and something that feels very familiar, not to mention that their locations tend to already include Italian populations or populations already familiar with Italian culture. Time Out Markets, on the other hand, face a distinct hurdle: they are telling the community what they think is “best.” They need to build up that relationship of trust with the local community, and to do that they need strong, established standards, which is where Eataly is strongest. Eataly’s carefully curated assortment and internally managed auditing means that from turnkey that trust is already there. Time Out Market, and indeed any format that includes local influence needs those quality assurance systems in place.

JCWG is currently researching quality and audit systems which reduces the risk of implementing smaller local vendors into larger developments. More to come.