Mercato Metropolitano CEO: ‘Fair pay is a moral obligation’

By Amelie Maurice-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Andrea Rasca on business sustainability: 'This is not by job, this is my life'
Andrea Rasca on business sustainability: 'This is not by job, this is my life'

Related tags Mercato Metropolitano Food Finance

Fair pay is a “moral obligation” for Mercato Metropolitano (MM), which centres a sustainable approach to food, according to its CEO.

Andrea Rasca founded the first MM pilot site in Milan in 2015, and the food & drink enterprise now boasts four sites in the capital.

London’s night czar Amy Lamé​ visited the food hall in Elephant & Castle last week after it earned the Mayor’s Good Work Standard’s Achievement level for championing sustainable growth and employee welfare.

At the event, Rasca talked to The Morning Advertiser ​on the importance of fair pay: “When you decide to create an enterprise company there are two ways of doing it,” he says. “Either you do it because you believe that it's part of the social tissue in the community, or you do it because you want to make money.

“Once you decide what you want to do, then the fair pay is part of it. There's no surprise, you should pay them as much as you can.”

He believed employers could not promote themselves as a fighter for human rights if they only paid employees £5 per hour. “You’re a disgrace,” he said. “Obviously, if you want to create a concept which is towards the community, you start with the community.”

There is no debate about paying London living wage for Rasca. “It’s a moral obligation as well as a business obligation to be here in the future,” he said.

NLW will increase​​ to £11.44 in April, rising from its current level of £10.42. Staff aged 21 and 22 will also receive the NLW from spring, bringing almost 3m more people into the wage bracket.

Speaking to The Morning Advertiser,​ Lamé said: “Everyone deserves to have a decent night’s pay for a decent night’s work, and that can help build a business not just in the short term, but in the longer term.

“So while it may benefit businesses to go low in the short term to save cash, actually, what are you investing in for the future of your workforce?”

Sustainable model

Aside from paying a fair wage, there are other ways MM supports its staff. Rasca listed: daily free meals, English classes, and pairing with London Southbank University to provide qualifications and learning opportunities for employees.

“If they want to do something, I ask them to come and talk directly to me,” said the CEO. “They say, ‘I would love in 10 years to become a HR director’. Come to me, and we can sort things out and put you in apposition where you have the ability to grow.”

There are also internal educational programs which takes people from floor to management positions

Rasca said: “We are not a normal company, we work for the planet, for the people. Everything we do must be sustainable and regenerative.”

MM also has zero budget for advertising. “People come because they love it,” said Rasca. “Our food is exceptional, the prices are good. We have no brands, zero plastic, zero waste, and people come.”

How was trade been over winter? “We’re doing very well,” said the founder.

When asked what advice he would give to struggling hospitality businesses, Rasca said it’s difficult, as MM is not comparable to most businesses. “We are a charity, we are a social enterprise,” he explained. MM runs boxing classes for kids and the elderly to merge communities, and also puts on cooking classes.

These are free for children and subsidised by older members. “Only if you create social activity using art collections, jazz events, only in that moment can you help the community thrive,” said Rasca.

But he’s clear: “You don’t create communities, but I give a space for the community to thrive and attract them to the same place.”

Food creates an environment where people from different backgrounds can come together. “Through food, we don’t fight,” said Rasca. “All of this is to create a place, a peaceful place, a place of tolerance and enjoyable moments through sharing food with each other.”

Social philosophy

This is the core of MM’s social philosophy. Rasca expanded: “Food is a human right, and [we] need to feed you with incredibly tasty but accessible and nutritious food, to make you stronger or weaker.

“And then which is compatible with your local culture because the gastronomic concept of DNA is different in every country, so you need to adapt that to create markets are locations which work within the communities.

“If you put this at the centre, you are also sustainable, you are also compatible for nature, and you protect the health of people and the health of the planet.”

And how else does Rasca look out for his staff? He explained: “I start always from being ethically correct by paying your people more and engaging with them.

“It doesn’t mean you have to take care of only the mental issues they have because this is also a private sphere, they have to take care of their own things.

“But you have to provide the best possible environment for them, not only to work, but also to grow and then to work with the community.”

It is vital to be sincere, he continued. “The only secret is the love you put into what you do,” he added. “That’s the difference between a company who’s doing it for the money and they’re suffering, and people who do it because they love what they’re doing, and they love to see the smiles of people around.

“Even if the profit is lower, they’re happy anyway.

“This is not my job, this is my life. I enjoy every moment. And I don’t take holidays, because this is a holiday for me.”

Related topics MA Leaders Club

Related news

Show more