Some of Pret's healthier options. Image credit: Flickr/Matt @ PEK
Sandwich bars have been around pretty much since the Earl of Sandwich slapped a slice of wafer thin ham between two slices of Hovis and named the result after himself. Two hundred and fifty-odd years later, one chain has worked out how to make half a billion quid off it.
Pret a Manger has posted annual results showing it broke the £500m sales barrier for the first time last year, with sales rising 15% to £510m and profits leaping by 9% to £67m.
And although its menu spans from 500-calorie muffins to healthier-than-thou edamame pots, Pret said the healthy end of its menu was driving growth. Apparently its top-selling items were porridge (it sold 3.2 million pots last year) and bananas, with pressed vegetable juices (yum - not) outselling club sarnies.
‘Health is going to drive innovation,’ said chief executive Clive Schlee.
The company said that because more and more people want to eat in, it’s shutting its smaller takeaway-based stores and opening bigger ones that include plenty of tables.
‘[People] don’t really want to eat in the office now, they find it nice to take the time off,’ added Schlee.
The results also shed light on quite how speedily the sandwich chain is expanding: last year it opened 40 new stores, 26 of which were in the UK, seven of which were in the US, five were in France and two were in Hong Kong. It also hired 600 new staff.
It's worth pointing out that this is the exact opposite to Pret's original business model: its founders, Julian Metcalfe and SInclair Beecham, went for fewer, lower-rent locations so it could spend more on ingredients. Still, now we know what world domination looks like: kale crisps and eerily smiley staff.