Vegetarian options, the craze for avocados and booming business in the US helped Pret A Manger serve up record sales last year.
The sandwich chain’s sales for the year to December rose 13.9% to £676.2m with sales at branches open a year or more up 7.5%. Earnings before interest, tax and other items increased 14.5% to £84.3m.
Sales of vegetarian products saw double-digit growth as customers sought to cut down on meat. Pret sold 17,000 each week of a new beetroot, squash and feta salad, outstripping chicken and salmon options. Avocados, in favour with trendy foodies, were the chain’s fastest-growing ingredient, with customers consuming 5m of them in salads and sandwiches last year.
Clive Schlee, Pret’s chief executive, said almost 10,000 customers voted on social media on options for improving the chain’s vegetarian range. Pret will convert a branch in London’s Soho into a veggie shop and branches of the privately owned chain will sell two vegetarian special options each month over the summer.
Schlee said: “Last year thousands of customers told us they were trying to eat less meat. This year we have challenged ourselves to increase our vegetarian options in all shops, as well as opening a veggie-only pop-up shop to learn more from our customers.”
The 30-year-old company makes products in or very near its branches every morning instead of in large remote factories. Sales at its US operation, launched in 2001, rose 13.8% at established stores. New products and larger stores to suit American tastes helped drive sales in the US, where Pret has 65 branches.
The chain, which started as a single shop in Hampstead in London, opened 36 new branches worldwide last year, taking the total to 399, and added a shop in Dubai international airport early this year.
Schlee said: “These results represent another year of record sales for Pret. The highlights were a strong performance in the US – our newly opened Penn Station shop has the highest sales per square foot of any Pret in the world – and the opening of two very busy transport hub shops in Paris’s Gare de Lyon station and Nice airport.”
The majority of Pret’s 303 UK stores are in London, where it began life as an upmarket lunchtime option during the Thatcher era. The company said it expected to grow steadily in Britain, where it opened 23 shops last year, of which 12 were outside London.