- Pret A Manger will permanently close 17 units in Boston and Chicago and 30 units in the United Kingdom, according to a press release emailed to Restaurant Dive.
- The company reopened 51 U.S. locations in New York, Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia with new safety measures in place, but sales are down in the U.S. by 87%.
- The grab-and-go sandwich chain has broadened its delivery and digital footprint with a partnership with Grubhub/Seamless. It plans to launch order ahead in the near future, partner with additional delivery channels and provide a retail coffee offering.
With more Americans working from home during the pandemic, chains that rely heavily on office workers for the lunchtime daypart — and even morning commuters — have been hit hard since March. Despite Pret’s pre-packaged grab-and-go menu items, which provide minimal contact with employees, its focus on locations in urban areas with dense office populations has translated into steep sales declines.
These office workers aren’t likely to return anytime soon, either. Global Workplace Analytics expects 25% to 30% of the workforce will work from home several days per week by the end of 2021, and the longer employees work remotely, the higher adoption will be for telework.
“We cannot defy gravity and continue with the business model we had before the pandemic,” Pano Christou, Pret A Manger’s CEO, said in a statement. “That is why we have adapted our business and found new ways to reach our customers.”
Pret opened its first location in the U.S. in New York in 2001, and was booming just four years ago when it grew into a $200 million business. The chain expanded into new cities, reaching Chicago in 2010 and Boston in 2012, and later expanding into Philadelphia in 2017. It opened a handful of units in major U.S. airports in 2019, but has taken the path of slow expansion, preferring to grow the business one unit at a time. In 2019, the chain grew sales 4.7% and operated 95 units, according to Technomic data.
But the coronavirus pandemic has dealt a serious blow to the chain's business. Three weeks ago, it said it would close 30 units in the United Kingdom and cut 1,000 jobs, according to Bloomberg. The latest U.S. closures mean it will be in fewer markets, but the expansion of delivery and order ahead could appeal to some of Pret’s most loyal customers who haven’t had the chance to pick up their favorite meals.
The chain also launched dinner for delivery in the U.K. a few weeks ago, and rolled out Pret at Home in late spring in New York and Washington, D.C. to provide family meals, lunch kits and themed snack boxes for pickup and delivery. At its D.C. locations it also offers Pret Groceries. A more focused approached and expanded digital capabilities could help the chain get out of its sales rut and appeal to new demographics outside of its core office workers.