You live and you learn: Julian Metcalfe

The co-founder of Pret a Manger and Itsu on lessons he's learned in business

by Elizabeth Anderson
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

I love food and Pret A Manger was born because of that. Eating in London was very grim in 1986. There were lots of Italian sandwich bars. Italian food is amazing, but it was like the worst Italian chefs came here.

Sinclair Beecham (co-founder) and I spent 20 years working incredibly hard to build Pret. No amount of time will ever undo that relationship. Since we sold most of the business in 2008, I'm still working like a maniac at Itsu. He spends more time enjoying the countryside.

All the food sold in Pret is fresh. From our very first shop, we decided to deliver leftover sandwiches to people. Now we do it for hundreds of shops. By mistake, the gesture has become associated strongly with the brand. That was never our intention.

Only 1% of my time is spent worrying about finances. I take a very long term view of growth. In its first year, Pret lost £80,000. Now it's making millions.

I have two shrinks - a corporate and a personal one. They are the best business consultants you'll find, because answers are generally found in the head and the heart and not in a spreadsheet.

McDonald's bought a stake in 2001. I hoped we'd gain a greater understanding of training, discipline and opening in foreign countries, but we didn't learn that many lessons and it was a PR mistake. We had very little interaction with 'Big Brother'.

The Government has to be very careful with the 50p tax rate. Increasing taxes for people who create jobs is a hideous mistake. It's incredibly naive. It's not like taxing cigarettes. Employing people is not bad.

I have a very supportive wife and a tolerant and decent ex-wife. I have three children, four stepchildren and one ex-stepdaughter. The measure of my success is how my family will feel about me after my death. If you neglect your family, you're an idiot. I try to get a good balance, but I don't know if I've succeeded.

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