Bidders - rumoured to include Bridgepoint, Lion Capital and PPM - are said to be looking at a price of around £400m, significantly more than the estimated £350m stockmarket valuation but still more of a snack than a square meal. An extra £50m on the sticker price would be good news for Metcalfe and his fellow founder Sinclair Beecham nonetheless, who set up their first shop in 1986 and still own the majority of the equity between them.
What the impact would be on the famed quality of Pret's product is less easy to predict. As regular customers will know, the entire business has been built around delivering freshly-made, prepared-on-site food - to the extent that potential profitability has probably been sacrificed in order to maintain the brand's position in the marketplace and reward customer loyalty. That's exactly the kind of ‘fat' that PE people like to trim out of the businesses they acquire… Watch this space.