Barilla and the city of New York just clicked; the ‘city that never sleeps’ managed to charm the company from Parma too. No wonder; more and more people have fallen under the spell of the spirit of the Western world and enjoy walking far and wide in Manhattan and the other huge city neighborhoods. If being seduced was an easy task, making the relationship longlasting is not as easy, particularly challenging if we consider the business nature of the bond. After opening three “fast casual” restaurants, with the fourth on its way (it could be around Wall Street), they seem to have passed the test of cohabitation in one of the most competitive business environments, when talking about services. Having charmed New York is not enough; it is Los Angeles, which embodies the American Dream, the Mecca of cinema and the star system, the subject of dreams of a whole nation, where Barilla will open three new company-owned points of sale next year, thus embracing a new business challenge. In New York we weren’t simply planning to open a mere promotional flagship restaurant, something impressive commemorating the brand in a market worth 500 million dollars for the group already, explains Luca Uva, new Chief business developer for Barilla. We wanted to be present in catering, a business branch external to the company’s core business, yet strictly related to it in the supply chain, though generating profit. We are confident we’ll be able to propose our model and have good chances of winning over the consumers.
A PARTICIPATORY APPROACH – The company has been catering to the food service field for a long time, but reaching the final consumer without the mediation of third parties is a different matter. The Barilla Restaurant helps us understand how consumers’ tastes are being shaped. We try to interpret the signals of a change in tastes and food habits before they become mass trends. For a company like Barilla, a world leader in the market of pasta, this is a valuable point. And we can only pick up the signals if we are in direct contact with the final consumer. Barilla is indeed picking up clear signals from the consumers, but the relationship is mutual: We want to introduce, rather than impose, the principles of the Mediterranean diet to our consumers (which assure a correct nutritional intake of carbs and vegetables) in which we strongly believe. Such principles are the outcome of years of research at the “Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition”, a foundation that addresses the company’s strategy in the long run, from both a nutritional and an environmental perspective. In other words, the lifestyle we believe is right for our consumers. We aim at being a ‘participatory brand’, an obvious choice in a time when the Internet and social media do not require companies to establish a unique relationship with the consumer, but two-way, dynamic relationships.
SLOW FOOD? YES… BUT IN A FAST WAY – Fast service is Barilla’s trump card: In seven minutes we manage to serve the order of any of the core dishes on the menu (pasta, pizza, sandwiches, or salads), even at peak hours, such as during lunchtime, when often people are queuing outside the restaurant, explains the executive. Good speed of service doesn’t go to the detriment of quality. We do not compromise on quality; we stand up for it and if we did, it would disastrously backfire on the brand itself. We have a manager who’s in charge of quality control in all three restaurants. We are very strict on this point, we don’t want to compromise on food safety.