Community food market business Mercato Metropolitano has announced plans for a £35m expansion across London, Europe and the US.

The business is planning ten more markets around the world focused on some of the biggest cities, with three more London sites, plus venues in Atlanta, Boston, Miami, New York, Berlin, Lisbon and Milan, creating around 2,000 jobs.

Its next sites will open in Canary Wharf and Elephant Park in summer 2021, followed by Ilford in autumn 2021.

Longer-term, further markets are planned for secondary cities in the UK and globally.

The business achieved sales of almost £10m last year, despite its two London sites being closed for four months, with limited opening for a further six months due to the pandemic.

Managing Director Amedeo Claris credited the success with the business’ inclusivity, sustainability and strong community roots.

Mercato Metropolitano (MM) describes itself as “movement” of artisan and conscientious entrepreneurs, which champions nutritious, non-industrial and affordable food, from unsophisticated and sustainable produce with full traceability.

In 2019, 4m people went through the doors at its markets in Elephant & Castle and Mayfair, which launched in 2016 and 2019 respectively, and have incubated more than 100 food and drink start-ups to date.

The business model is based on entering joint ventures with landlords, while the company is also preparing to raise equity for the expansion plan. 

A spokesperson told MCA: “The expansion model of Mercato Metropolitano is predicated on securing new sites in large cities from property developers and landowners who become our joint venture partners, rather than merely providing real estate as a landlord. Each of our current development deals involve the land owner supporting the full fit-out and part of the initial start-up costs. This allows MM to reduce dilution and avoid raising capital for the costs of setting up the physical location.

“We are currently preparing a seven-figure equity investment round to fund (among other things) the expansion of the international team, which will go live at the end of Q2 2021 and in relation to which we have already received in-principle commitments from two large investors and are undergoing due diligence with a private equity fund specialising in impact investments.” 

Claris said: “Mercato Metropolitano is an urban destination and community space bringing together community events, music, workshops, cookery classes, innovative farming practices, circular economy models, and dishes from around the world. We provide support to entrepreneurs and incubate start-ups to break down barriers and build a thriving economy. Likewise, we secure properties for our markets from landlords who truly understand the importance of business sustainability and accept to work with us in the same way as we work with our trading partners. Ultimately, we are developing a sustainable business model that aims to shorten the food supply chain, make quality food more affordable, and promote the importance of communal eating as a catalyst for social cohesion.”

The MM market format is designed to include a business mix that allows trading partners to recoup their initial capital investment in a relatively short period of time and remain financially sustainable.

Rather than charging rent, MM shares in the top-line sales of all trading partners. For trading partners that are low-margin but desirable businesses for the community, MM expects a lower revenue share.