12 October 2022, 15:15 PM
  • Stefano Cuomo, CEO of Macknade Food Hall, celebrates his business' 175th anniversary and discusses how he is setting a course for the future
Stefano Cuomo, Macknade: “In it together”

Following on from my previous missive on ‘the taste of nostalgia’ shaping the future, it is a theme that continues to grip me in this craziest of year – the year that Macknade turns 175.

As I have said, my family came to Macknade as generational Kentish farmers, in the decade that Hong Kong was ceded to the British (Linda Jaivin’s The Shortest History of China has been one of my summer readings – a brilliant book to chew through the epic that is China’s heritage to the present day, and in a world that feels crazy, it underlines how time twists and turns, and with it human civilisation, giving a certain sense of context and balance to our present seemingly febrile world!).

As I walk the same land they did, not far off two centuries ago, the connection to my family and forebears feels very real; yet the thought of travelling the world via sail alone is mad – it reminds me of just how much our world has changed.

Whilst the family ethos and shared community values that have driven us in the past remain, the ‘here and now’ feels very disruptive. We will however pull through to a calmer time supported by all we have learned in these weeks and I’m sure, in the months ahead.

I have familial joy for the past, more and more, learning to understand the good and the bad that have gone before, making sure they help shape forward thinking.

Macknade’s heritage is a key part of who we are and continuity in turbulent times gives communities strength. But it is how we interpret the future, and set a clear path for our community to understand where we are going, that is so much more important. And in this, the individual, rich in heritage or not, is weak.

It is as a focused team that Macknade stewards our community, knowing the trust it has in us and what its collective aspiration is. As a team we create the plan and deliver it! I have had shaky moments these past months and it has been the strength of others reminding me of the importance of the team that have helped me refocus my balance.

The focus is the future. Yes, we learn from the past and it helps us interpret our next steps, but we have to be clear as to what we want to achieve and where we are going.

At Macknade our mission of creating our community’s ‘Favourite Place’ has never been truer. We must be vehemently customer centric and sincere, shared experiences will continue to be king. In fact, it will define what it is that makes us human.

Economic headwinds are shouting ‘cheapen the product’, but with an infinite goal of human and environmental harmony, we will stay true to what we believe in.

Supporting our customers through innovation (understanding data better to deliver improved experiences), product selection (engagement around lesser known, lower priced ingredients) and cost management (clear and engaging margin management to share our customer’s pain) is important, but most of all, this means making sure we are offering the very best products that support our community’s health and our shared environment, always delivering them at a fair price for everyone.

The need for cost control will make our models stronger – whether that is our hospitality-led Deli & Dining offer, or our retail-focused Food Hall model. Our teams are evermore engaged in the economics of the business, not just the delivery of the mission. This engagement and this openness and honesty will grow skills, build resilience and harbour a stronger team for the future.

It means we have to be there for each other as it gets tough, but more importantly we will stay together, to enjoy overcoming the challenges as one.

As I look to the future, I have 175 years whispering at my shoulder. I am excited at the prospect of working with my team to deliver more Macknade sites, bringing change to more communities and delivering our mission to an ever-growing circle… chasing that infinite goal of harmony that I know is possible.

It is easy to get lost in the nostalgic and inflated views of the past, but where the strength really sits, I now recognise, is in the emotions and truths of those around us here and now, those with whom we set a course for the future and share in it with.