11 reasons why Pret A Manger rules the world
Pret will continue to reign supreme around the world in 2020, here's why
Pret hasn't been around forever but love it or loathe it (it's pure love isn't it), it is hard to think of another British food chain with such global omnipresence.
The brand currently has over 500 shops internationally, across the UK, US, France, Belgium, Hong Kong, Singapore, Switzerland, Dubai, Denmark and Germany. Founded by university friends Julian Metcalfe and Sinclair Beecham, Pret started out with a single store in 1986.
With freshly made, Italian-inspired sandwiches, it offered a welcome alternative to what Metcalfe described as the "very grim" lunch options of 1980s London, and it was an instant hit. By 1997, there were 53 Pret shops in the UK, followed by one in New York three years later.
The last decade has seen Pret launch vegetarian spin-off chain Veggie Pret, its own charity, The Pret Foundation, and an eggless egg mayo sandwich.
Whether you dig the "classic" posh cheddar and pickle, slurp the daily soups (all under 250 calories), or just love the coffee — there's plenty to love about the chain.
Freshly prepared food everyday
This much is true: sandwiches, wraps and salads are made fresh everyday in Pret stores. The woman charged with overseeing Pret's food offering is Hannah Dolan, head of global food and drink innovation, who operates from a small test kitchen at the company's HQ in London.
Dolan, along with five "innovation managers", develops menu items for Pret shops in the UK, as well as its overseas outposts. Every one of these products – from sandwiches to vegetable crisps to chia puddings – is divided into categories: classic, health, warmth, quirky.
"Quirky" can be hard to explain to American stores, but usually means a Pret version of a popular product such as the almond butter bites – a take on Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.
The menu changes globally
Classic tuna baguette Pret Facebook
Pret are hot on monitoring the popularity of products in different countries. Pret customers in the US prefer Balsamic dressings, while Hong Kong likes to mix-and-match single sandwiches and the UK went nuts for the vegan choc cookie (more on that below). However, across all markets, there is one type of Pret product that remains popular: the chicken Caesar baguette, and the tuna — both firmly in the "classic" category and global crowd pleasers.
Veggie Pret started as a pop-up at the Pret on Broadwick Street, London, in 2016, following customer feedback on how Pret should move forward with its vegetarian offering. On opening separate stores the mission was to make it easier for people to eat less meat not just veggies.
In October 2019, Pret announced it was working on a new range of plant-based sandwiches after an instagram poll showed high demand for it. "The Vegan Classics" include vegan-friendly versions of four of the food chain's most popular items, carefully created to taste just like the originals: the "chuna" baguette is the new eggless egg mayo.
Free coffee for smiles
Did you know Pret have a unique policy that allows staff in shops all over the world to give away free treats to customers on an ad-hoc basis? If you're smiley or chatty or you look like you need a little boost, you could be a candidate for a free hot drink or snack. It not only makes customers feel special, but is also a tactic to secure repeat business. Crafty, but we'll take it.
The Love bar
Not only an amazingly delish combo of almonds, pistachios, vanilla, and pumpkin seeds embedded in caramel on a flapjack base, but also a bar with a big heart. During Pride month last year Pret launched a limited edition rainbow Love bar with a 10p donation from each going to AKT, a charity supporting over 50,000 LGBTQ+ young people experiencing homelessness. Which leads us on nicely to...
The Pret Foundation
The Pret Foundation was launched with the aim to help alleviate poverty, hunger and homelessness. The foundation's Rising Stars Programme has helped over 450 homeless people in the UK find a job and get them off the street. The foundation also distributed over three million food items per year to hostiles and food banks and runs regular campaigns to support a wide variety of charities. It's reach extends internationally, giving support to more charities in Pret markets all around the world.
The Vegan Cookie
It came, it conquered and then it vanished. The dark chocolate and almond butter vegan cookie sent the UK into meltdown when it was first introduced to Pret’s menu in spring 2018. It made a huge impact on people in the vegan community and beyond. The cookie became one of the food chain’s best-selling snacks, and garnered a legion of fans on social media. But then Pret took it away unannounced and nationwide despair hit.
The good news is they have brought it back by popular demand in all its warm, gooey glory. It’s still the same recipe you know and love, but it now has a ‘may contain dairy’ message. Pret originally removed it because the cookie dough is made in a bakery that also makes dairy products, so there’s a chance that traces of dairy can be found in the cookie.
Reusable cups are hot news right now. They are an easy way to do your bit for the planet, and a vital first step in establishing a long term solution to plastic pollution. They will also save you money. Pret reward customers who bring in reusable cups by giving you 50p off your coffee.
The secret iced drinks menu
Note this down for this summer when you're sipping boiling hot coffee on the way to work. Last June, Pret launched its secret over-ice drinks menu. And it's not just coffee that got the chills: think iced Matcha latte, iced turmeric latte, iced mocha, iced chai and even iced choco milk.
The new ice drinks didn't appear on menus, but Pret confirmed at the time if you asked your barista they'd still make if for you (bring your own cup, you still got a 50p discount). We talk in past tense, yes. As you already know Pret like to keep us all guessing, so no guarantees the secret menu will return in 2020, but here's hoping!