Pret A Manger recovers after further losses in 2021

Pret A Manager returned to profitability in March.

SANDWICH and coffee chain Pret a Manger has said it returned to profitability in March after suffering another year of hefty losses in 2021 amid lockdowns and Covid restrictions.

The group, which is planning to open its first shops in Northern Ireland, revealed it remained in the red with operating losses of £225.9 million last year, in new filings at Companies House.

This was an improvement on the £343m loss seen in 2020 at the height of the pandemic thanks to a 17 per cent rise in revenues to £461.5m last year as restrictions lifted and workers returned to offices.

It said its recovery has "continued and accelerated" in 2022, with half-year revenues up 230 per cent to £357.8m, helping it return to profitability in March and becoming cash flow positive since May.

It comes less than three months after Pret announced plans to launch 20 shops across the island of Ireland over the next decade. The first will open in Dawson Street, Dublin city centre, this summer.

Pret is this week due to launch a new affordable menu range in response to the cost-of-living crisis.

The firm said its recovery came as it boosted its presence outside London - where trade was hit particularly hard by the switch to working from home - with sales growth faster outside the capital.

Two-thirds of its UK shop portfolio is now outside London's Square Mile, with 36 per cent of UK shops in regional cities and towns, while its online sales jumped by 37 per cent in 2021.

Pret has also started ramping up its overseas expansion, recently announcing four new franchise partnerships - including a deal last month with Reliance Brands to build the chain across India.

This added to recently revealed tie-ups in Canada, Ireland, Spain and Portugal as part of a goal to double the size of its business within five years and expand into five new markets by the end of 2023.

It said the recent franchise deals means it expects to meet its international growth goal a year ahead of schedule.

Chief executive Pano Christou said: "Two years ago, we said we wanted to bring Pret to more people.

"During the first half of this year, we not only delivered on that pledge, but we also grew fastest in some of the places where we only had a handful of Pret shops before."

He added: "The opportunity now is for us to take that growth and apply it internationally.

"Since the start of this year, we've signed four new partnership agreements to take Pret into new global markets.

"The second half of this year will be about taking that a step further."

The firm now has 11,500 staff, including 8,700 in the UK alone.

Since announcing its five-year growth plan last September, it has opened another 27 shops in the UK, taking its estate to 442, while it now has 558 shops internationally.

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