Chipotle chicken and chardonnay could soon be coming to a Pret a Manger near you. The grab ‘n’ go sandwich chain beloved of time-poor workers up and down the country is trialling sit-down meals, complete with table service and jazz, at its store on London’s Strand.
The ‘Good Evenings’ menu, which includes hipster favourites such as craft beer and £5 mac ‘n’ cheese, is being pitched as a pre-theatre alternative, and has been available from 6pm to 10.45pm for the last couple of weeks.
The company, which has been owned by private equity firm Bridgepoint since 2008, said the experiment was a ‘one-off trial with no plans to roll it out any further.’ But if it proves to be a not-too-costly hit there would be no reason not to expand it to at least some of its 351 other shops, most of which are in the UK (private equity does like to sweat its assets for all they’re worth after all).
‘When you pay high rents on an established infrastructure, you have to look if you do something new in the times where you’re not traditionally as strong,’ marketing director Mark Palmer told Marketing Week.
It’s not just Pret, which made £67m profit on £500m sales in 2013 (the most recent year for which it filed accounts) that’s trying to make the most of evening eating out, either. Starbucks said in February it would be serving alcohol and hot meals and snacks in the UK, starting with Stansted Airport of all places, after a successful trial in the US. If coffee shops and sandwich sellers can pull off the art of a cheap, hearty dinner, then established restaurant chains could well have to rethink their £10-plus pasta.