Pret to hire 3,000 new staff as city workers return

·3 min read
Pret store
Pret posted a 58% fall in sales to £299m in 2020, compared to £708m the year before

Pret A Manger says it is seeing a return of workers to the office in busy city centres.

Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays were now the busiest for the sandwich chain, Pret boss Pano Christou told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Pret has announced plans to hire 3,000 staff by the end of 2022 after cutting the same number of jobs last year.

Mr Christou said the chain hoped to open 200 more shops in the UK over the next two years.

He added that Pret hoped to expand into five markets overseas by the end of 2023, with many of the new outlets placed in train stations, bus stations and motorway services.

The expansion proposals come as demand from commuters and office workers - a key market for the chain - has started to pick up again after plunging during the Covid lockdowns.

The business is now looking to turn that around, despite having to tackle supply chain and heavy goods vehicle (HGV) lorry driver shortages, like many other businesses across the country.

"A couple of weeks ago, we ran out of some prepared fruit for two or three days [and] we were short of a couple of our bread lines for a couple of days," he said.

"I think we will see [the driver shortages] until the end of this year and into next year - there's a real challenge for the industry to navigate through."

Pandemic impact

The impact of the first lockdown led to Pret cutting 3,000 jobs, which represented a third of its workforce. Most of the jobs axed were from its shops, but 90 roles were also lost at its support centre.

The chain posted a 58% fall in revenue to £299m in 2020, compared with £708m the year before.

Mr Christou told the BBC the "most difficult period" over the last year was having to make people redundant.

"You have so many people's lives in your hands and making those decisions was the most difficult thing I had to do in my entire career," he said.

"When you have to make a call on thousands of people's jobs, that is something you spend a lot of time thinking through. But it was about how we could ensure that the business would survive and come through Covid."

As part of its recruitment drive, Pret said it had received a £100m investment from JAB and Pret founder Sinclair Beecham to accelerate the expansion.

Brighter future

"Last year we were in the eye of the storm during the height of the pandemic. Now we have the chance to build a bright new future for Pret," Mr Christou said.

"It's been an incredibly tough two years, but we have a big opportunity ahead."

Mr Christou said he was "definitely seeing our Pret stores getting busier" since coronavirus restrictions were lifted on 19 July.

The number of employees working across the Pret has grown 28% since the start of the year, with more than 6,000 employees in the UK. About 30% of those employed this year had worked for Pret previously.

"Clearly recruitment is a challenge at the moment, and we're putting everything behind ensuring that we are an employer of choice; that we pay well, that we've got the right benefits, and then we've got the right bonus available to attract new staff," Mr Christou said.

Last week Pret announced that it was increasing pay by at least 5% for its cafe workers, weeks after ditching paid breaks and attempting to slash bonuses.

The move means that starting pay for store workers will now rise to a minimum of £9.40 an hour, up from the legal minimum of £8.91, but all team members, including managers will get a raise.

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