Pass notes No 3,153: Pret a Manger

The sandwich and coffee chain is expanding – which means 550 more jobs in the UK

Age: 26.

Appearance: Ubiquitous.

I can't recall the last time I saw one. Actually, Pret a Manger outlets are only ubiquitous in London – 168 of the chain's 240-odd UK locations are in the capital.

Who cares? I hate French cuisine. Don't be fooled by the name. Pret a Manger is British, founded by upstart Polytechnic of Central London graduates Julian Metcalfe and Sinclair Beecham in 1986. It sells sandwiches, wraps, soups, coffee and salad – basic office lunchtime fare.

In that case, what a pretentious name! It just means "ready to eat" in French.

I knew that. What else are they doing these days? Expanding. Pret has just announced the opening of 44 new stores, 20 of which will be overseas.

Overseas? Isn't that a bit risky? Not really. It already has outlets abroad, including 41 in the US, 12 in Hong Kong and one in Paris.

That's clever, because Parisians will totally get the name. Yes. Yes they will.

What's the secret of Pret's success? A commitment to fresh ingredients, perhaps – there are no sell-by dates on the products, and most shops give away their "leftovers" at the end of each day.

How nice. Or it could be their polite, smiling, maniacally outgoing staff. Or their apprenticeship scheme for homeless people.

Does it ever come in for criticism, this Pret a Manger? Oh, yes – for selling food with a high salt content, for putting mustard and/or mayonnaise on everything …

I like both. … for hiring friendly and competent foreign workers instead of grumpy, useless Brits …

Could be worse. … and for being secretly owned by McDonald's.

Ooh. Is that last one true? No, not any more. McDonald's did take a 33% stake in the US branch of the company, but it sold out to a private equity firm in 2008.

Do say: "If it really creates 550 jobs in the UK, then a new Pret at the end of the road, across the street from the old Pret, is a price worth paying."

Don't say: "Le Big Mac, s'il vous plait."

The GuardianTramp

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