THE STORY

When university graduates Julian Metcalfe and Sinclair Beecham landed jobs in London, they tired quickly of sad looking lunchtime sandwiches served without a smile. So in 1986, with a £17,000 loan and a name taken from a closed-down shop, they opened Pret A Manger in London’s Victoria.

Only passionate people were employed, and offered a 70p-an-hour bonus for their niceness. As for the food, Metcalfe took control, sourcing only the finest, natural ingredients and cooking 25 chickens every Sunday! There were no tubs of guacamole, only freshly sliced avocados. And ham and tomato sandwiches became Brie, tomato and basil baguettes. Metcalfe even put his own phone number on the (first-of-its-kind) cardboard packaging.

With its French name, adventurous menu and socially conscious attitude, their formula was a hit. By 1998 they had opened 65 locations. It was time for global expansion—New York, Hong Kong, Singapore, you name it. With too much on their plates—literally—they handed the reigns to former PepsiCo star, Andrew Rolfe.

In 2001, McDonalds bought a minority share for £50 million—an odd match, but it allowed them to go expansion crazy. Now, with 530 shops worldwide, Parisians eat crayfish and rocket sandwiches, while frequent flyers run through airports to grab acai and almond butter bowls.

In 2018, Pret was sold to JAB for a sweet £1.5 billion. As for Metcalfe, he’s still changing the world—one gyoza at a time. Did we mention he also founded Itsu?

Are you Pret?

FOCUS

Were there already plenty of sandwich shops when Pret was launched in 1986? You bet. Did Starbucks invent coffee? Absolutely not. So next time you hear someone (including you) obsess about competition, tell them (gently) to obsess about the client, innovation and unique selling proposition instead.

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© Story by Tarek Issa.

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