Pret boss reveals chain’s global grand plan

Clive Schlee

The boss of Pret A Manger has revealed his ambition to build a British foodservice chain capable of emulating the global presence of US industry giants such as McDonald’s and Starbucks.

Chief executive Clive Schlee, who yesterday unveiled record profits at the sandwich chain, said his ultimate aim is to see the company trading at the sort of level associated with the biggest multi-site brands in the business.

He said most of the companies that achieved worldwide coverage so far were from the US.

“We’d like to be a successful British global company — one that is really successful in different continents and that would be a very worthy goal,” he said in an interview with the Evening Standard. “There’s only been five or six companies over the years that have managed that and most of them have been US companies. British ones have never really made it.”

Schlee remains realistic about the task ahead, though. “We’re going to do it bit by bit and quite cautiously. McDonald’s has been around for 60 years, so you can’t do this in one generation.”

Pret A Manger currently operates around 300 stores in the UK, half of which are in London. It has closer to 400 stores worldwide and opened its first outlet in China last year.

Sales at the company increased 16% last year to £594m. Pre-tax profits climbed 14% to £76m.

Schlee revealed that the biggest-selling item last year was the humble banana, closely followed by porridge. Its best-selling sandwich, which had been the tuna baguette for several years, has been overtaken by the chicken Caesar baguette. Freshly-made juices have also jumped, with more Green Goodness juices being sold than chicken and avocado sandwiches.

Last month, Pret A Manger announced that its branch at the Strand would begin serving evening sit-down meals for the first time in its history. It hopes to take advantage of the huge theatreland crowds that have more time to dine than its traditional day-time grab-and-go customers.

The move will allow Pret’s kitchens to carry on producing food when they are normally at their quietest.

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