When you think of theme parks, what typically comes to mind? Roller coasters? Bumper cars? Cheesy song-and-dance numbers, perhaps based on a popular musical or film?
But what about food? Would a food-based theme park be something you could get behind? Is it a concept you can even comprehend? Most of the food to be found at theme parks is typically bad and not nutritious, often served on sticks or paper baskets.
However, one prominent Italian food brand and marketplace certainly hopes that people will visit a theme park based entirely on gourmet food, and is making a big investment ($106 million — or 100 million euros — to be exact) in the belief that millions of other food lovers would embrace the idea.
Eataly is an internationally renowned brand of markets, food courts, restaurants and culinary schools that began in Italy and spread throughout the country, eventually expanding to megastores in New York, Tokyo, Munich, Dubai, Chicago and San Paolo among nearly 25 locations. Now, the company wants to get in the theme park business.
Based in Bologna, Italy, the complex will be called Eataly World and span more than 20 acres. The park will feature orchards, gardens and farmland full of produce, cows, pigs, goats and sheep. Those who simply want to eat can do so at 25 restaurants and food stalls. Visitors can also attend 40 different workshops where they will be able to watch gourmet pasta and cheeses being made, and will be encouraged to tour the complex on adult-sized tricycles with shopping baskets.
Oh, and since this will be a theme park, there will be rides of a sort. Included among the attractions will be virtual reality experiences. How much interest those will draw when there are pastures, marketplaces and restaurants to enjoy? Maybe those rides will be more for the kids.
Initial projections are for six million tourists to visit the park per year, two million of which will travel from other countries. Will there be a market for such an attraction? If you were visiting Italy, would you prefer to spend the trip touring a 20-acre theme park or might it be more enjoyable to actually tour the country and arguably get a more authentic food and travel experience? (Of course, those who already live in Italy might be more interested in such an attraction.)
Eataly World is aiming for a September 2017 opening. Start saving up and planning those trips now. There is some serious eating to be done. Unless you prefer your theme parks with roller coasters, cartoon characters and corn dogs.