Pret a Manger plans post-Covid life beyond city centres

British coffee chain experienced drop in footfall during pandemic as office workers stayed at home

British coffee chain Pret a Manger is seeking to rebound from its Covid-19 blues by launching 200 outlets outside of major UK urban centres.

Pret – which opened a branch in Dubai in 2016 – has been hit hard by the pandemic, with city centres stripped of office workers and tourists. Conversely, its regional outlets have never been busier, a trend which has underpinned its newly announced expansion.

“We’re looking to establish new partnerships with franchise partners to bring Pret to more people in towns and travel hubs across the UK, and we’re also looking at where we can open more shops which we run directly,” said a company spokesman.

Teaming up with other retailers is a major part of Pret's post-pandemic survival strategy. If it can't rely on the footfall levels seen before Covid-19, it must seek associations with other businesses that haven't suffered.

A business that falls into this category is Tesco. Earlier this year, a partnership between the firms saw Pret outlets appear inside the UK grocer's stores.

If the plan proves successful, Pret's bosses will hope to avoid future rows with its employees such as the one that erupted last week, when staff threatened to strike over the planned slashing of their bonuses.

Following uproar on social media, Pret about-turned on the outright ban and instead linked bonuses to a mystery shop.

Pret hasn't gone back on a decision not to pay staff for break times, however, indicative of its weakened pandemic finances. In April, it scotched dividend payments, warning it could be ill-equipped to survive a post-Covid world.

Updated: August 16th 2021, 2:44 PM