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Shop, Eat, Learn: The future of supermarkets?

Shop, Eat, Learn: The future of supermarkets?

I was struck by this quote from the founder of Eataly, Oscar Farinetti: “The opportunity to shop, eat and learn at the same time has made customers fall in love with Eataly.”

While Eataly itself may be very upscale, placing more emphasis on eating and learning offers some significant benefits for supermarkets.

A focus on eating is, of course, a market opportunity. More food-for-now options have been added to supermarkets in recent years, although as Neil Stern recently observed, the rise of fast casual restaurants provides some good lessons on how to develop this further. Meanwhile, Whole Foods noted in its recent results that the growth of services such as Instacart that provide almost immediate delivery expands the opportunity for prepared foods still further.

But this is still about shopping, albeit for immediate consumption. Eating also provides the opportunity to create a more social experience. Eataly does this by blending restaurants and shopping together, while farmers’ markets achieve this in a different way, through extensive sampling and food options. In contrast, few supermarkets provide comfortable environments to eat and converse.

Then, an emphasis on learning can position a supermarket as a trusted partner for the customer. While Eataly focuses on the traditions of Italian cuisine, supermarkets are ideally placed to help customers with health and wellness. As Margaux Drake recently observed, some markets are already making progress in this area.

Of course, a greater emphasis on eating and learning has to work with the shopping on offer, to create a coherent whole. For example, a market that only offers unhealthy prepared food options and/or lets highly processed foods dominate its end caps is unlikely to be seen as a trusted source for health and wellness advice.

However, blended effectively together, the result would be a supermarket that has a more social, community feel ... and plays a more important role in customer lives.

Do you think it's possible? How else can supermarkets emphasize eating and learning?

Simon Uwins is a former CMO of fresh&easy and Tesco UK, and author of Creating Loyal Brands (2014). Find him online at

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