Pret a Manger to buy and convert Eat stores into vegetarian outlets

22 May 2019, 10:20 | Updated: 22 May 2019, 12:16

Pret a Manger says it has agreed to buy fellow food and drink retailer Eat - and will convert many of its outlets into "Veggie Prets".

The sandwich and coffee shop said its plans to take over the 94-strong Eat estate were a response to a growing consumer demand for more vegetarian and vegan options on the high street.

The first Veggie Pret was launched in September 2016 in Soho in central London.

It has since expanded to three further locations in Shoreditch and Exmouth Market in the capital, plus one in Deansgate in Manchester.

Pret chief executive Clive Schlee said: "The purpose of this deal is to serve a growing demand of vegetarian and vegan customers who want delicious, high-quality food and drink options.

"We have been developing the Veggie Pret concept for over two years and we now have four hugely successful shops across London and Manchester.

"The acquisition of the EAT estate is a wonderful opportunity to turbo charge the development of Veggie Pret and put significant resources behind it."

Last year, Eat's owner, private equity firm Horizon Capital, appointed advisers at KPMG to investigate the possibility of a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) - a type of insolvency mechanism - to close some of its under-performing stores.

Management later decided against the procedure and instead closed a handful of stores.

Accounts filed to Companies House show that Eat Limited made a loss before tax of £17.26m on turnover of just under £95m in the year to 28 June 2018.

Andrew Walker, chief executive of Eat, said: "Eat's passionate and talented team are what make the business; their commitment to providing our customers with great food and excellent service is at the heart of the company's outstanding recent performance.

"I am delighted that their efforts have been recognised through this transaction.

"It has been a privilege to lead Eat for the past three years, and I believe this acquisition creates new opportunities for employees and customers alike."

The vast majority of Eat branches are in London, but there are also stores in Birmingham, Manchester, Cambridge, Windsor, Canterbury, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Chichester, Basingstoke, Portsmouth, Bristol and the Bluewater Shopping Centre in Kent.

Pret is not the only business wanting to capitalise on a growing interest in plant-based foods.

Big chains including Tesco, Ocado, Iceland, Waitrose, Sainsbury's, Co-op, Asda, Morrisons and Marks & Spencer now sell a huge variety of vegan and vegetarian products - some their own ranges.

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