Pret today launched a "shop in shop" concession inside Tesco Kensington as CEO Pano Christou said collaboration between compatible businesses can help give the high street a “fighting chance” post-Covid.
The chain, synonymous with office life and a somewhat unwilling pandemic bellwether, has closed more than 70 stores and slashed 3,771 jobs since Covid hit. It was forced to secure emergency bank funding in April 2020, before receiving an £185 million capital injection from its owner, Luxembourg-based group JAB.
Bosses are aggressively adapting its business model for the hybrid working future, including launching a delivery service, dinner menu, frozen croissants for retailers, and a £20 monthly coffee subscription.
Today Pret unveiled the first of four shops set to open inside Tesco stores this summer in a partnership Christou hopes will build a key new revenue stream while not "carpet bombing the brand everywhere".
Tesco approached the chain, which will pay turnover-based rents. But Christou stressed that this "will not be a franchise model". Coffees will be prepared by trained baristas, and the menu will be the same as in any other small store. Supermarket sites will not open near other Prets, but "where there is a void".
It comes just days after Carluccio's owner Boparan Restaurant Group revealed plans to open branches of its new Caffé concept inside Sainsbury's supermarkets.
Christou told the Standard: "My sense is that the grocery players want to make their supermarkets more experiential... I think Covid has really brought CEOs, sectors and businesses together. People want to help each other come through this, because by doing that at least you have a fighting chance of having a high street.
“If you all work against each other, you could end up with nothing."
The CEO, who took the reins at Pret in October 2019 after a 20-year career with the company, said the last year has been a challenge, but that Covid’s “silver lining” is “that it has pushed Pret to look at things differently".
He said all the new channels Pret has been trialling, particularly the coffee subscription, "are growing and exceeding our expectations".
"Whereas we were very much underpinned by skyscrapers and workers, since taking over as CEO I've always wanted to bring the brand much further afield than it has been. I want to make Pret accessible to everyone around the country," he said. "Pret needs to evolve and adjust ourselves to whatever people do."