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Even Pret a Manger Needs Support to Reduce Rents Through the Pandemic

The maroon chain’s planning for significantly fewer sandwich seekers underscores how much institutional support restaurants need to survive

A Pret a Manger cafe in London, 30 of which will close because of coronavirus
Pret a Manger is planning for reduced footfall by reducing rents
Wiktor Szymanowicz/NurPhoto via Getty Images

High street sandwich slingers plan for less slinging

Maroon-branded high street monolith Pret a Manger is getting formal advice on changing its way of working, according to the Financial Times. As the novel coronavirus pandemic keeps many offices closed, the sandwich slinger — and competitor Leon — is seeking support that could extend as far as linking the amount of money paid to their landlords to the number of grab-and-go meals sold. This is called “turnover rent.”

Such an arrangement would make rents more proportional to money coming into a given business, and therefore more affordable. It does not go as far as the “national time-out” touted by restaurant trade body U.K. Hospitality and a number of large chains and popular independents, which would offer nine months of total payment relief to landlords and tenants alike.

Pret a Manger employs over 8,000 people across 400 cafes, and has already reopened some of its sites with new social distancing measures in place. Its scale is one of the reasons it can afford to seek and use the support of advisory firms. This inadvertently highlights something else: in the absence of decisive government intervention, restaurants are being left to ask landlords to strike a deal. If one of the most popular chains in the country needs to marshal external support, where do smaller restaurants turn?

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