Pret a Manger raises £100m to expand across five countries

The group has diversified its business focus since the start of the pandemic

Pret a Manger was hit hard by the pandemic. AFP
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Pret a Manger is expanding to five new countries after a £100 million investment by its owner and founder.

It is also planning to open 200 more shops in the UK and hire 3,000 staff by the end of 2023.

The coffee chain, which focused on central business districts before the pandemic, reported big losses caused by Covid-19 lockdowns.

The UAE was one of the first international markets into which Pret a Manger expanded, alongside the US, France and Hong Kong. The UK-based chain hopes lessons it has learnt during the pandemic will help during the next round of expansion into five countries, which it did not identify.

“Over the past few weeks and throughout the whole of summer we have started to see a very strong recovery,” said chief executive Pano Christou.

The group has diversified its business since the start of the pandemic in an attempt to reduce its reliance on city centre workers for trade.

It launched retail coffee products and a coffee subscription service, and expanded through delivery operators.

The chain had a rough pandemic but now hopes to bounce back. Reuters

“We are keen to open more stores in regional and suburban areas, as these have been really strong recently,” Mr Christou said.

“We have obviously kept an eye on the way trends have shifted since the pandemic and obviously areas such as service stations have been particularly busy, so that it why we have linked with Moto and Motor Fuel Group.

“We are seeing lots of property opportunities but it is unsurprisingly competitive for the best sites, but I think landlords see us as a really strong brand and are keen to bring Pret in.”

Pret plunged to a pre-tax operating loss of £256.5 million for 2020, according to new filings in Companies House.

It also revealed that it has been backed by a new £100 million net investment by owner JAB Holdings and founder Sinclair Beecham.

Pret's revenue fell by 58 per cent to £299 million for the year, as it was forced to shut shops for months and footfall was significantly depressed by Covid-19.

It said its regional shops were now at their strongest ever levels while its London city sites had rebounded to 72 per cent of weekly pre-pandemic sales.

Mr Christou said certain launches were more successful than others and the group had pulled back from its trial of evening meals after disappointing results.

The update comes days after the group announced a 5 per cent pay rise for its cafe workers.

Mr Christou said industrywide staff shortages had posed “a challenge” for the business, but that it hoped investment in its pay structure would entice more new employees.

The group closed around 30 stores and shed thousands of jobs following the initial impact of the pandemic.

Updated: September 23, 2021, 8:46 AM