Pret buys Eat to push veggie credentials

Pret A Manger, the UK food-to-go chain, has agreed to buy smaller counterpart Eat. Pret plans to transform the outlets into “Veggie Prets” as it takes advantage of the ever-growing demand for vegan and vegetarian options.

The food and coffee chain will take over all 94 of Eat’s shops and convert “as many as possible” into Veggie Prets, it said today.

The move is the latest plant-friendly Pret move of a long line, which started with its first Veggie Pret outlet in 2016 (in central London). It has since opened two more in the capital and one in Manchester.

Clive Schlee, chief executive of Pret, who came up with the Veggie Pret concept after his daughter converted to vegetarianism, said that the move was a chance “to turbocharge the development of Veggie Pret and put significant resources behind it”.

He added that he hoped to convert “a good number” of Eat shops into Veggie Prets but could not say how many until it had been confirmed which of its stores would be able to have kitchens added.

Unlike Pret products, Eat sandwiches are made off-site in a centralised kitchen and delivered pre-packaged to stores.

Eat has struggled with the growing competition in the fast-food sector, however. It reported a loss before tax of £17.2m in the year to end of June 2018. Horizon Capital announced in February that it had appointed advisers Spayne Lindsay to oversee a sale process.

Jonathon Martin, a partner at Spayne Lindsay, said the deal marked a turnround for Eat, which has returned to growth since exiting a number of underperforming sites last year.

Pret, which was bought for £1.5bn by Luxembourg-based investment company JAB Holdings in May 2018, hopes to cater to the increasing number of vegan, vegetarian and flexitarian consumers wanting to reduce their meat intake.