Pret a Manger to open 200 more UK shops in next two years

Britain finally goes back to the office: Pret a Manger to open 200 more stores to cope with commuter demand as rush-hour traffic is BUSIER than pre-Covid levels

  • Pret said its city sites have recovered in recent weeks as more returned to office after being hit by pandemic
  • It is a boost for UK as the firm was used as a barometer to measure how many people were going back to work
  • Travel data appeared to show that Londoners were continuing to ditch the work from home lifestyle for office
  • Rush hour congestion figures suggested workers heading to office had shot up above pre-pandemic levels

Pret a Manger has said it will open more than 200 shops in the UK over the next two years after securing a further £100million cash injection.

The sandwich and coffee chain said it has seen its city centre sites recover further in recent weeks as more returned to the office after being battered by Covid.

It will be seen as a boost for Britain as the firm was used as a barometer to measure how many people were going back to work amid the crisis.

Travel data appeared to show that Londoners were continuing to ditch the work from home lifestyle for the office this week.

Rush hour congestion figures suggested workers in the capital heading to the office had shot up above pre-pandemic levels.

Other cities such as Manchester and Liverpool also seemed to be fairing well, with the number of people on the roads remaining high.

It comes as a poll revealed almost a fifth of people yet to return to the office for work full-time said their biggest concern was going to the toilet.

Health startup The Gut Stuff found 18 per cent of those surveyed said going to the toilet was the most worrying part of returning to the office full-time.

The sandwich and coffee chain said it has seen its city centre sites recover further in recent weeks as more returned to the office after being battered by Covid (file photo)

LONDON: Travel data appeared to show that Londoners were continuing to ditch the work from home lifestyle for the office this week

MANCHESTER: Other cities such as Manchester and Liverpool also seemed to be fairing well, with the number of people on the roads remaining high

LIVERPOOL: Manchester and Liverpool remained consistent in recent days but traffic numbers were lower than before Covid struck

Pret revealed that it plunged to pre-tax operating loss of £256.5million for 2020, in new filings on Companies House.

It saw its revenues fall by 58 per cent to £299million for the year, as it was forced to shut the shops for months and saw footfall 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.

The company said it will look to continue the latest phase of its recovery strategy by investing to rapidly expand its shop estate.

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

Funding will be used to help the group double in size within five years, with 200 UK shops set to built in the next two years.

Pret revealed that it plunged to pre-tax operating loss of £256.5million for 2020, in new filings on Companies House (file photo)

CEO Pano Christou (pictured) said the growth plan will see Pret target more transport hubs, motorway service stations and suburban areas

CEO Pano Christou said the growth plan will see Pret target more transport hubs, motorway service stations and suburban areas.

He said: ‘We are keen to open more stores in regional and suburban areas, as these have been really strong recently.

‘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.’

Mr Christou told the Today programme: ‘I do think hybrid working is with us to stay. I think Pret will still look at opportunities in urban centres and transport locations.

‘But I think what we’ve really done through Covid is look through other areas – our suburban footprint has done exceptionally well – and we’ve had some tests in motorway service stations that have equally gone well.

‘I think we’re really looking to broaden our growth strategy across the UK and feel really confident about that due to the things we’ve seen evolve in those peripheral areas of Pret beforehand.

‘The core city worker areas are still quieter than they were in 2019, We have seen a recovery and a step up. It seems Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays are much busier than Mondays and Fridays.

‘We’re very much keeping an eye to see how things evolve throughout the rest of the year.’

He added: ‘Clearly recruitment is a challenge at the moment and we’re putting everything behind ensuring we’re an employer that pay well and we’ve got the right bonus to attract new staff.

‘What we are seeing is unemployment is still high, there are still almost two million people on furlough who will be coming off this month.

‘So we still see there are people available we are bringing on board. We have started to broaden our approach to recruitment, looking at students.

‘I think unemployment will probably get to a point where it becomes trickier. It’s really an employees market – they can pick and choose at the moment.’

The group has diversified its business operations since the start of the pandemic as it sought to ease its reliance on city centre workers for trade.

Pret has diversified its business operations since the start of the pandemic as it sought to ease its reliance on city centre workers for trade (file photo)

It saw the chain launch of retail coffee products, it coffee subscription service and expanded through delivery operators.

Mr Christou said the firm was more resilient as a result of its ‘omni-channel’ approach.

He added certain new launches were more successful than others, with the group pulling back from its trial for evening meals after disappointing results.

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

Mr Christou said the industry-wide staff shortages have posed a ‘a challenge’ for the business, but it hopes investment in its pay structure will entice more employees.

The group had axed around 30 stores and thousands of jobs following the initial impact of the pandemic back in 2020.

Travel data for today shows cities across the UK are continuing to return to normal following months of work from home.

Londoners appeared to be the most likely to be heading back to the office as TomTom congestion figures showed a surge in recent days.

Rush hour this morning suggested that there were more people on the roads than before the pandemic back in 2019.

LONDON: Meanwhile mobility data showed a staggering spike in the number of people walking around city centres this month

MANCHESTER: The figures from Apple say pedestrians had rocketed by 128 per cent in Manchester, 176 per cent in Liverpool and 28 per cent in London

LIVERPOOL: Drivers on the roads had also shot up by 25 per cent in Manchester, 39 per cent in Merseyside and 23 per cent in the capital

Manchester and Liverpool remained consistent in recent days but traffic numbers were lower than before Covid struck.

Meanwhile mobility data showed a staggering spike in the number of people walking around city centres this month.

The figures from Apple say pedestrians had rocketed by 128 per cent in Manchester, 176 per cent in Liverpool and 28 per cent in London.

Drivers on the roads had also shot up by 25 per cent in Manchester, 39 per cent in Merseyside and 23 per cent in the capital.

It comes as a poll found almost a fifth of people yet to return to the office for work full-time’s biggest concern was about going to the toilet.

A poll of 2,000 adults across the United Kingdom by health startup The Gut Stuff found 18 per cent of those surveyed said going to the toilet was the most worrying part of returning to the office full-time.

More than half (53 per cent) of those polled also said they were more comfortable leaving their place of work to find somewhere else to relive their bowels, with 18 per cent saying they had even gone back to their own home.

And the issue appears to disproportionately affect women, with 67 per cent of those asked saying they felt uncomfortable using the toilet for a number two at work. 

More than a quarter (28 per cent) said they had used facilities on another floor in the office, while 18 per cent admitted they were willing to hold it in all day. 

Lisa and Alana MacFarlane, founders of The Gut Stuff, are urging employers to not turn their noses up at the issue and ‘try to help break the loo taboo’.

A poll of 2,000 adults across the United Kingdom by health startup The Gut Stuff found 18 per cent of those surveyed said going to the toilet was the most worrying part of returning to the office full-time (file photo)

Lisa and Alana MacFarlane (pictured above), founders of The Gut Stuff, are urging employers to not turn their noses up at the issue and ‘try to help break the loo taboo’

The issue appears to disproportionately affect women, with 67 per cent of those asked saying they felt uncomfortable using the toilet for a number two at work (file photo)

The new research comes amid the raging return to office debate, with experts seemingly divided on the benefits and disadvantages of a hybrid working system in the future. 

One recent report indicated almost half of all office workers would quit their jobs if asked to go back to the office five days a week.

But The Gut Stuff’s data indicating almost a fifth of workers worry about returning to the office because of their bowel movements shows the issue may now be expanding to concerns over our ‘work-loo’ balance.

Lisa and Alana MacFarlane released advice for employers alongside their research, with tips including ensuring toilet paper supplies are well stocked and being prepared to talk about it with colleagues.

They told Refinery29: ‘It’s so much more than feeling embarrassed – employers have a responsibility to make sure their team’s health and wellbeing is supported in the back-to-work transition, and that absolutely includes encouraging people to go, when they need to go.’

‘Nobody cares as much as you think they do. They’re all too busy worrying about themselves, we promise!’

Medical professionals have coined the term parcopresis or ‘shy bowel syndrome’, which is defined as the fear of defecating in public places, and suggest it is a surprisingly common phenomenon.

Bottling up that anxiety can adversely affect your health, according to Dr Ben Disney, a consultant gastroenterologist at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire.

He told HuffPost parcopresis ‘can impair rectal sensitivity and decrease sphincter strength,’ ultimately leading to constipation.

That also has widespread connotations across the country, with a 2020 report by The Bowel Interest finding those suffering with poor bowel health and chronic constipation cost the taxpayer £81million per year in NHS A&E admissions. 

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