Pret a Manger to close 30 stores and leave more than 1,000 people unemployed

Pret a Manger is to permanently close 30 branches and could cut at least 1,000 jobs after suffering “significant operating losses” as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown.

The food to go chain said it had reopened 339 out of its 410 UK shops but footfall remained down while sales were 74% lower than the same time last year as people continue to work from home.

The business said its recovery from the pandemic in the UK was “much slower” compared with the other countries it which it trades. Last month the company went through £20m in cash as it boosted spending on essential health and safety measures, while sales are a quarter of normal levels.

As well as closing 30 shops before the end of the year, the number of workers in Pret’s other shops will be reduced, support teams will be restructured and a sale process will be started for the lease of its main support office in London Victoria.

A consultation is being launched on reducing headcount, but at least 1,000 jobs are at risk from the overall restructuring. The company employs 13,000 shop staff globally, including 8,000 in the UK.

Pano Christou, the company’s chief executive, said: “It’s a sad day for the whole Pret family, and I’m devastated that we will be losing so many employees. But we must make these changes to adapt to the new retail environment. Our goal now is to bring Pret to more people, through different channels and in new ways, enabling us to grown once more in the medium term.”

Plans are also underway to revamp Pret’s business model, which has largely focused on serving office workers, to reflect challenging new trading conditions.

In recent weeks, Pret has launched a retail coffee offering with Amazon, broadened its delivery and digital footprint in partnership with Deliveroo, Just Eat and Uber Eats, and launched click and collect trials in five shops in London. Sales from these channels have grown 480% year on year and represent more than 8% of total UK sales.

Pret will launch further innovations over the coming weeks, including an evening delivery menu to be trialled from seven shops and a new hub kitchen in north London.

In May, Pret called in consultants A&M and CWM to help renegotiate its rents as it attempted to avoid store closures during the coronavirus epidemic.

The chain has gradually reopened 339 of its UK stores – initially for takeaway and delivery customers only – after shutting all its sites in March. On Saturday it reopened seating areas in England.