Pret A Manger has defended its pricing strategy after the sandwich chain came under fire for charging more than £7 for a baguette.
This week, several national newspapers including The Sun and The Times criticised the chain for raising the price of its items.
Many of the headlines focused on Pret's ‘posh cheddar and pickle' baguette, which was found to cost £7.15 including VAT to eat-in at its café in High Street Kensington Tube station.
Pret said the sandwich sold for £4.99 to takeaway in a typical London shop but was priced at £5.95 in station stores due to higher operational costs.
Guy Meakin, UK shops and franchise director at Pret, addressed the issue during an appearance at the Lunch! trade show this week.
He said it was a "really tough market" for hospitality and the eat-in price of the baguette included the 20% VAT rate and reflected Pret's higher wage bill and the fact energy costs had gone "through the roof" for the business.
"Prices are going up so unfortunately we are having pass on prices through to our customers," said Meakin.
"We need to be competitive, and we still need to be really mindful of all the different prices across whatever shops we have. As we open more and more formats those different prices will naturally come through."
A Pret spokesperson said prices reflected the fact its sandwiches were made fresh in its kitchens every day rather than by machines or in factories "like in many supermarkets and other chains".
The company said it offered a Made Simple value range of sandwiches, priced from £2.99, and had doubled its Club Pret subscription discount to 20% off all products this month.
"We are proud of the quality and freshness this gives our products, but it does mean that we face different cost pressures to most other food businesses," the spokesperson added.
Further UK expansion
Pret posted a profit for the first time in four years in 2022 after the pandemic saw a drop in its traditional commuter trade.
While its city centre sites have been slower to recover, Meakin said its cafes in suburbs and regional towns had seen footfall reach 2019 levels.
He said Pret could open over 500 stores in the UK outside of London as part of its ongoing expansion drive.
The coffee and sandwich chain currently operates around 450 UK sites and now runs 130 locations outside of London.
A recent opening in a Motor Fuel Group forecourt in the Lake District had been successful and Pret saw an opportunity to expand in Scotland, north Wales, and Cheshire, Meakin added.
He said Pret had "maybe been guilty" of rolling out too many cookie-cutter shops similar to its city centre sites and that regional locations such as Worthing and Reigate may instead need more comfy seating to encourage customer dwell time.
"We are really at the start of a new growth period for Pret," said Meakin.
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