Sandwich chain to extend school-leavers’ programme nationwide after stacking up healthy profits in lean times
Pret A Manger, the food chain known for its fresh lunchtime baguettes, sandwiches and wraps, is set to create 1,000 jobs worldwide, including 500 positions in the UK after a bumper boost in profits.
However, the company is likely to come under pressure to ensure most of the jobs go to British workers having faced criticism in the past that it was favouring foreign staff.
In the past year bosses have attempted to tackle the calls from Boris Johnson, the London mayor, and Chris Grayling, former employment minister, to increase British staffing levels, revealing 20% of workers are from the UK, compared with 17% a year earlier.
A school-leavers’ programme has been launched and will be extended across the country, with the aim of information being sent to every pupil leaving school this year.
Pret’s chief executive, Clive Schlee, recently said: “We are pleased that we have seen some encouraging signs and that the number of British workers at Pret has increased. But this is not a Pret issue, this is an industry-wide issue and there is no quick fix.
“We are expanding our school-leavers programme this coming year and will continue to do all that we can to attract more British applicants. We will always employ the very best people at Pret and we celebrate the rich diversity of our workforce and the atmosphere that brings to our shops.”
However, the school-leavers’ programme will not be extended until September, and until then the 500 positions are expected to be open to all nationalities entitled to work and are subject to an intensive 12-week training period. The 500 staff employed last year were hired on the same criteria.
A plan to get the homeless back to work has also seen 84 apprentices given jobs with around 50 having worked for Pret for more than six months.
It comes as the company, which has 320 stores and plans to open another 50, saw sales increase 17% to £443m last year with underlying profits also up 17% to £61.1m.
The business has undergone a major expansion, taking advantage of the high street decline by negotiating lower rents.
Management have said in the past that the rate of expansion – 36 opened last year, bringing the total to 323 – has only been possible due to landlords keen to fill empty spaces.
The company, which was bought by private equity firm Bridgepoint in 2008 for £345m – netting the founders Julian Metcalfe and Sinclair Beecham £50m each – has expanded worldwide, with stores in Hong Kong, Paris and the US.
In France, the new Parisian shops have been so successful that average weekly sales at the stores take more money than any other Pret worldwide, the company said.
A major refurbishment plan is already underway, with bosses keen to encourage more customers to eat in, rather than be seen as just a takeaway operation.
They also revealed that its tuna baguette has overtaken the super club sandwich as its best selling UK sandwich.
Other projects include donating unsold sandwiches to the homeless, with employees giving away 2.5m in the past year while it also gave £1m to homeless charities.
• This article was amended on 22 April to correct the company’s annual profits
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