I have just returned from a month touring Italy and I found it a beautiful country with really helpful and friendly people. Of course, one had to avoid the constant pestering at tourist sites to buy trinkets, but that is true in many countries.
As I said before I left on this trip, I was hoping to see examples of Italian entrepreneurship and I will hope to recall some of the examples over the coming blogs. For example, I never expected to see entrepreneurship amongst street entertainers, but Mercantia proved me wrong on that point. Nor did I realise the sheer entrepreneurial genius of De Vinci until I visited the Milan exhibition.
But my first, and most enjoyable, encounter was with a simple Italian tradition that, to me at least, demonstrates true entrepreneurship. Despite making some excellent wines and liquors, Italians are not massive drinkers. However, in addition to their glass of wine at mealtime, they have a strong tradition of 'aperitif'.
At the end of the day it is usual to relax with a cocktail or pre-dinner drink such as Campari and to have a few snacks. Now, with the price of cocktails and similar drinks around the 6 Euro mark, it is unlikely that people are going to sink a couple of these every night.
So the entrepreneurs have developed the 'aperitif' culture where for an one extra Euro you can enjoy a buffet with your cocktail. Suddenly, the price of a couple of Campari does not seem so bad when it now appears to provide significant free food.
No where is this better illustrated than at the canal side in Milan. Here the canal is lined with bars competing with their buffets for the attention of the earnest cocktail drinker.
For the budding entrepreneur there is certainly a lesson here. All too often we look to make maximum income for minimum expenditure. However, in the case of the expensive cocktail the bar owners realised that selling it on its own was unlikely to create the same return as one would get by adding an additional feature and charging just a little more.
If you add to this the fact that the added feature often contained pasta and pizza that slowed down the effect of the alcohol into the bloodstream and the fact that the salamis and hams had a high salt content making people more thirsty, and the one Euro loss leader of the food more than paid for itself in sales of the main product - the cocktails.