Pret A Manger will permanently close 30 shops due to “significant operating losses”, it said this morning.
With more than 70% of its 410-strong UK store network based in London, a lack of commuters and office workers during the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a dramatic slump in sales.
Although Pret has reopened nearly 340 stores, sales are reportedly down 74% on the same period last year due to the reduction in footfall.
As part of the restructuring, a sale process will be started for the lease of its main support office in London Victoria, support teams will be reconfigured and the number of workers in shops that remain open will be reduced.
Chief executive Pano Christou said in a statement: “When the coronavirus crisis hit, we said that our priority was to protect our people, our customers, and of course Pret. We confirmed it was our intention to do everything we could to save jobs.
“Although we were able to do that through the lockdown, thanks in particular to the government’s vital support, we cannot defy gravity and continue with the business model we had before the pandemic. That is why we have adapted our business and found new ways to reach our customers.”
Over the weekend, Mr Christou gave an interview with the Sunday Times where he admitted he had incurred “sleepless nights” about having to tell staff about impending job losses.
Speaking about the extent of the downturn facing Pret, he revealed that sales at its branch outside St Paul’s Cathedral – usually teaming with City workers and tourists – were down 90%, while the outlet under its HQ was averaging weekly sales of £7,000 instead of £42,000 during normal times.
Pret was founded by Julian Metcalfe and Sinclair Beecham in 1986 and has more than 550 stores in nine countries.
Two years ago, it was acquired by JAB Holding Company, which also owns Krispy Kreme, in a deal worth £1.5 billion.
The sandwich chain is often seen as a poster boy for British food-to-go given its expansion to more than 500 stores globally and brand reputation.