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The U.K. Is Crawling Back to Pret a Manger

The maroon chain’s sales are rebounding sharply as people go back to offices

People walk past a branch of Pret-A-Manger
People are returning to Pret a Manger, because it is Pret, office world in cafe form.
Dinendra Haria/SOPA Images

Having spent much of 2020 and 2021 installing itself into people’s home lives, it turns out all Pret a Manger needed to do was trust its beguiling hold on the U.K. office worker’s psyche. According to the Bloomberg index, the chain’s sales are rebounding sharply in London’s corporate districts, particularly the City.

Its overall trading is back up to 93 percent of pre-COVID-19 levels, with a rise in price for its constipation-beating coffee subscription no deterrent to the commuter’s taste for the edible equivalent of water cooler chat. Having closed branches at the costs of thousands of jobs, and cut pay only to raise it again after protest, introduced home coffee beans with a deathly millennial cottagecore aesthetic, frozen croissants, and a hot mess of a home dinner menu, all it really had to do was just hold out.

This is because Pret a Manger’s fundamental function remains one of homogenous convenience, the lunch equivalent of office drinks, the flat white as a rail season ticket — this is its only draw, and when something deeply average was no longer convenient (or literally unavailable) at the height of the pandemic, there was little to recommend it. Its biggest draw appears to have endured, but the company still feels under existential threat, asking shareholders to stump up another £100 million after they funded a massive expansion push last summer.

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