Pret a Manger will open more than 200 new stores across the UK and turbocharge its international expansion over the next two years following a £100m investment from owner JAB and founder Sinclair Beecham.

Pret A Manger

The coffee and sandwich chain will focus its UK expansion on regional and suburban areas, as well as transport hubs and motorway service stations, as it seeks to reduce its reliance on major commuter cities such as London.

The plans will build on Pret’s existing partnerships with forecourt operator MFG and motorway services operator Moto.

Around 100 of Pret’s new stores will be franchise shops, but the business is also launching a major recruitment drive to hire at least 3,000 new staff and baristas over the next two years.

Pret is also eyeing expansion into five new markets by the end of 2023. The business would not be drawn on the location of those target countries, but Retail Week understands it is focusing its international efforts on Europe and Asia.

Pret suffered tumbling sales during the height of the pandemic as office workers stayed at home during lockdowns. According to accounts filed at Companies House, Pret reported an operating loss of £257m in 2020 after sales tumbled 58% to £299m.

However, it said its recovery had “gathered pace” during the past month, with trade “approaching pre-pandemic levels”.

Pret reported that stores in regional locations were performing at their “strongest ever levels”, while sales in London shops are now raking in 72% of pre-pandemic sales.

Details of the expansion plans come a year after Pret launched its coffee subscription service, aimed at bringing customers back into its shops and driving loyalty. It has also kicked off new retail partnerships with Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Amazon.

As a result, Pret’s workforce has grown 28% since the beginning of the year, with more than 6,000 employees located in the UK. Pret will also increase pay by at least 5% for its UK employees following the news last month that it would no longer pay workers during their breaks.

Pret chief executive Pano Christou said: “It’s been an incredibly tough two years, but we have a big opportunity ahead. Last year, we delivered more change than in 30 years of Pret’s history. As we move into the next phase of our transformation, we want to keep the same pace of innovation, but use it to drive new growth.

“We’re excited that through our business transformation plan we can continue to serve both existing and new customers in more ways than ever before including through our coffee subscription, Pret-at-home ranges and our expansion into new regions.

“We also extend our gratitude to JAB and Sinclair Beecham, our founder, for supporting the Pret team, and I know everyone involved with Pret is excited for what the future holds.”