U.K. high street chain Pret a Manger will buy one of its main lunchtime competitors EAT, and has laid out plans to convert as many of EAT’s shops into Veggie Prets, the brand’s vegetarian spin-off. This is apparently in response to “growing consumer demand for more vegetarian and vegan options on the high street.” This morning’s statement confirms a report last week by the Evening Standard.
Pret currently operates 400 sites across the U.K.; it will acquire all of EAT’s 94 in the country.
The first Veggie Pret opened in September 2016, and later expanded to three further locations across London and Manchester. In October 2017, it launched a Veggie Pret on Exmouth Market, in Clerkenwell, the first shop to open as a Veggie Pret; existing Pret sites on Brewer Street in Soho, and on Great Eastern Street in Shoreditch, were converted to serve only vegetarian food and operated as pilots.
In May last year, Pret was sold to JAB Holding for £1.5 billion, and as part of the deal, the company’s 12,000 employees received a £1,000 bonus. JAB, a Brussels-based German conglomerate, acquired Pret from Bridgepoint, a fellow private equity firm. Bridgepoint acquired the brand for £364m in 2008, and has delivered year-on-year sales growth throughout ten years of ownership, now operating 530 stores across the globe. JAB added Pret to its portfolio after acquiring Krispy Kreme in 2016, and US coffee giant Keurig Green Mountain the year before. JAB also owns Stumptown Coffee Roasters and Peet’s Coffee and Tea, and Pret is its first U.K. high street acquisition, but not its first sandwich shop: the company owns Panera Bread in the USA.
Clive Schlee, CEO of Pret said: “The purpose of this deal is to serve a growing demand of vegetarian and vegan customers... We have been developing the Veggie Pret concept for over two years and we now have four hugely successful shops across London and Manchester.
“The acquisition of the EAT estate is a wonderful opportunity to turbo charge the development of Veggie Pret and put significant resources behind it.”
EAT’s own CEO Andrew Walker, said: “EAT’s passionate and talented team are what make the business... I am delighted that their efforts have been recognised through this transaction. It has been a privilege to lead EAT for the past 3 years, and I believe this acquisition creates new opportunities for employees and customers alike.”