‘Covid is an opportunity’: Pret a Manger’s CEO on its fight for survival

The sandwich chain has become a symbol of the way we used to live, pre-pandemic. Can boss Pano Christou turn things around?

The Pret a Manger head office in Victoria, London, has all the trappings of an internet startup: the open-plan kitchen offering free coffee, fruit and snacks; a red telephone box next to a meeting room where you can take a private call (Google’s office in London has those, too); a fibreglass cow grazing on fake grass in the atrium; and an area to host “town hall meetings” with a scattering of quirky cushions on a series of raised steps. On the steps is written: “Millions of healthy customers, thousands of opportunities, hundreds of shops, one vision, two founders.”

Of course, there are no longer thousands of opportunities for some of its employees. At the end of last month, the sandwich chain announced that nearly 2,900 of its 8,800 staff were being axed; 30 shops have closed; many of the ones that remain open are now shutting as early as 3pm; and the menu has been slimmed down.

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