F*@& there are a lot of Pret A Manger’s? Yes.
Would you believe there is a ‘Find a Pret’ section on their website? Slightly superfluous, given they are everywhere, on every block. You can’t turn a corner without seeing that maroon deco typeface, bookended by two five-pointed stars.
They also offer a delivery service, which I find completely absurd. How lazy do you have to be to organise a delivery from a shop already at your doorstep. It’s almost as senseless as asking a colleague sitting right next to you a question via email.
However, since it was first established almost 30 years ago, this convenience has been key to both the company’s ethos, and their products.
The first shop was opened in Hampstead, northwest London, in 1983 by the founder of Food & Drink Innovation Network, Jeffrey Hyman. Together with a group of stakeholders from ad agencies and the showbiz industry, they created an outlet focussed on food that was gourmet and ready-to-eat. The shop, the design, and the food were all about sophistication and convenience.
I stopped learning French in year 7. Therefore ‘manger’ to me was still the crib where Jesus slept. So when I first invited a friend to lunch at ‘Pret A Manger’ my pronunciation was vulgar to say-the-least.
The name itself, which I have since learnt is French for ‘Ready to Eat’, was coined by Hyman’s sister Valerie, a fashion Guru, who morphed the title from Pret A Porter, meaning ready to wear. The correct pronunciation is Pret a Man Jay. For those less confident, ‘Pret’ will suffice.
When the original store closed, the company was sold to college friends, Sinclair Beecham and Julian Metcalfe, who have built and expanded Pret A Manger into a company which turns over around £380 million a year.
Only upon visiting one of the approximately 230 stores in the UK did I alter my mindset from ‘why are there so many’, to ‘thank god there are so many’. At lunchtime they are all packed. Workers are in and out in zero time with a ready-to-eat sandwich, baguettes, wrap or salad. The demand is extremely high. And the supply is delicious.