Pret a Changer: Post-lockdown restructuring sparks hope for Pret

October 10, 2020

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2 min read

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What's going on here?

UK’s leading sandwich shop chain, Pret A Manger (Pret), is introducing new loyalty schemes and a dinner menu as part of its post-pandemic survival strategy.

What does this mean?

The economic downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has affected many businesses, especially in the hospitality and retail industries. From gaining immense popularity in the early 2000s, to experiencing its lowest ever recorded footfall today, Pret is losing its “buzz”. With customers still working from home and many students not returning to campus, Pret’s CEO, Pano Christou, has decided to implement drastic restructuring measures. At the end of last month, the company announced that they closed 30 shops and made nearly 2,900 of its staff redundant. Many of the remaining shops now have amended working hours and slimmed down menus. 

But wait until you hear about their new subscription plan! Pret has launched a £20 a month subscription service which offers customers up to five drinks a day. In an attempt to save its crumbling empire, a new business strategy is in progress to boost sales and appeal.

What's the big picture effect?

London’s beloved Pret is now forced to go through a dramatic reinvention to win its post-lockdown recovery battle. From “follow the skyscraper” to “follow the customer”, Pret’s new strategy is focused on broadening its appeal. Christou identified their current main goal as restructuring their brand image and expanding their customer base outside of London. The CEO’s upcoming initiatives include more than just the subscription service, namely, an online exclusive dinner menu (meaning delivery only), expanding Veggie Pret and entering the grocery market (selling coffee and pre-packaged food). Pret now has to compete with local players such as Greggs and independent cafés which offer cheaper products and have a strong presence in areas outside of London.  

Strategies to flatten the Covid-19 curve have made victims out of many others as well as Pret. Figures published by the Office for National Statistics revealed that food and beverage services sales plummeted by 83.4% in June, despite slow signs of growth. While the hospitality industry is slowly recovering, having been helped out by the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, the pandemic continues to hinder how hospitality businesses operate. With the recently introduced 10pm curfew and the “rule of six”, it is crucial for these businesses to strike a balance between successfully returning to trading and maintaining hygiene standards. Even though the restrictions seem harsh, research shows that a quarter of customers only feel comfortable to sit down at a restaurant if there are strict track and trace measures in place. As the number of infections are picking up pace, it will be interesting to observe how the hospitality industry keeps up with the tighter regulations. If a second lockdown is due soon, can Pret and other culinary institutions survive an even deeper recession?

Report written by Selin Alagoun

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