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Coronavirus: Pret A Manger cutting 2,800 jobs as it closes 30 stores

Edmund Heaphy
·Finance and news reporter
·3-min read
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2020/07/08: Pret a Manger, the coffee chain is to close 30 stores across the UK as a result of declining sales, putting around 1,000 jobs at risk and reduced headcount across many of its remaining 380 shops.  Many UK businesses are announcing job losses due to the effects of the Coronavirus Pandemic and Lockdown. (Photo by David Mbiyu/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Trade across Pret's UK stores is still down 60% compared to a year ago. Photo: David Mbiyu/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Pret a Manger said on Thursday that it would close 30 of its outlets and axe around 2,800 roles at the coffee and sandwich chain, almost triple the number of expected job cuts.

The company, which cited the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and a huge drop-off in sales when it launched a two-month consultation process with employees in early July, said it had been “forced to take the difficult decision” to axe thousands of jobs.

While Pret had not indicated how many jobs were at risk, reports at the time suggested that only 1,000 roles were at risk as a result of the closures.

The company said on Thursday that, while it had seen a “significant improvement” in August, trade across the UK is still down 60% compared to a year ago.

Weekly sales in August were £5.5m ($7.2m), only slightly above the level seen 10 years ago, when the company was “considerably smaller,” Pret said.

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“I’m gutted that we’ve had to lose so many colleagues. Although we’re now starting to see a steady but slow recovery, the pandemic has taken away almost a decade of growth at Pret,” said Pret chief executive Pano Christou in a statement.

“We’ve managed to protect many jobs by making changes to the way we run our shops and the hours we ask team members to work. I’m hopeful we’ll be able to review all these changes now that trade is improving again, and I’m encouraged by the improvements we’re seeing every week,” he said.

The chain’s upmarket sandwich offerings have seen it become a global chain with hundreds of outlets, primarily servicing office workers looking for healthy and inexpensive lunch options.

Even as the easing of coronavirus restrictions has allowed Pret to reopen many of its stores, it has been dented by the thousands of firms who have instructed their employees to continue working from home.

The reduction in roles, Pret said on Thursday, was a reflection of its shorter opening hours, lower transaction levels, and the losses the company has faced so far this year.

While weekly sales have risen by just 7% since the end of July, Pret said it was “confident” it could continue to build on this growth.

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It said that 1,000 roles at its stores had been saved due to the many staff members who moved to lower minimum weekly hours during the pandemic.

The company previously said that it was assessing how it could reshape its business model over the medium-term. Citing its current dependence on office workers, it said it would focus on “bringing Pret to more people, through different channels and in new ways.”

Pret currently employs more than 8,000 people in the UK across 410 stores. The company said that some 339 of its stores have now reopened. A further 41 will reopen, while 30 will not.

Following the end of all current ongoing consultations with employees, Pret will employ around 6,000 people in the UK.