Sandwich chain, which recently closed four Veggie Pret branches, says many customers 'may not see themselves as full time vegetarians'
Pret A Manger is shutting the majority of its vegetarian-only branches across the UK to concentrate instead on expanding its veggie and vegan menu offerings across its more than 450 stores worldwide, the high street sandwich chain confirmed today.
The company recently closed four of its Veggie Pret stores in London, while another in Canary Wharf has been converted into a regular Pret that also sells products containing meat.
That leaves just four Veggie Pret stores across the UK. The company's two shops in London's Soho and Shoreditch are set to continue trading as Veggie Prets, while it is expected to monitor customer demand at vegetarian-only branches in Manchester Deansgate and London's Exmouth Market.
A Pret spokesperson cited demand for greater choice of both plant-based and meat options among its customers as motivation for the shift in strategy, which comes six years after the firm unveiled its first Veggie Pret in London's Soho.
The firm claims a third of its main meals sales - including sandwiches, salads, soups, hot breakfast food, and lunch items - are now vegetarian or vegan, as well as 58 per cent of its entire product range. It also plans to introduce new plant-based products across its stores in January.
"Our focus now is to keep growing our extensive vegetarian and vegan offer in every Pret shop, so we've decided to convert or close some of our current Veggie Prets," the company said in a statement. "More of our customers are choosing veggie options but may not see themselves as full time vegetarians, so all of our shops will continue to offer a majority meat-free and vegan menu and our remaining Veggie Prets will continue to develop new vegan and vegetarian options to be rolled out to our classic Prets."
It comes just over three years after Pret snapped up rival sandwich chain EAT in an estimated £55m-£60m deal, a move it said at the time was part of a strategy that would see it "significantly accelerate" the growth of its vegetarian-only outlets across the UK in response to "growing consumer demand" for more plant-based options on the high street.
"The acquisition of the EAT estate is a wonderful opportunity to turbo charge the development of Veggie Pret and put significant resources behind it," Pret CEO Clive Schlee said in 2019.
At the time of the acquisition, the firm said it planned to convert "as many as possible" of EAT's 94 UK branches into Veggie Prets, but the company was hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020 and the resulting lockdowns that followed, forcing a major reassessment of its strategy.
The firm began opening new branches again last year, and returned to profitability in March.
Founded in 1983, Pret opened its first vegetarian-only store as a pop-up in London's Soho in 2016, a move that proved popular enough to make it a permanent outlet. The number of Veggie Pret outlets then grew to four such branches across the UK's capital and Manchester within three years, later reaching a peak of 10 outlets across the UK.
Today, however, a Pret spokesperson confirmed that just four Veggie Prets are to continue trading for the time being, describing the brand as an "innovation hub" for its plant-based menu options.
"Veggie Pret was launched in 2016 with the ambition of offering our customers more delicious, freshly prepared vegetarian options," the firm said in a statement. "Now it serves as an innovation hub, fundamental to Pret's core offer - over half of our menu is vegetarian or vegan, with meat-free and vegan options accounting for one in three of our main meals sales."
* This article was originally published here