Pret shuts its Chicago and Boston markets as sales plunge nearly 90%

The U.K.-based fast-casual chain is pursuing new delivery channels and other steps to stabilize its downward slide.
Photo courtesy of Pret a Manger

With sales down 87%, Pret a Manger is pulling out of the Boston and Chicago markets as it takes “immediate steps” to stabilize its faltering business, the chain said in a statement.

The U.K.-based fast casual known for its grab-and-go offerings has closed 17 locations in Boston and Chicago, as well as 30 stores in the U.K. One Pret unit on the University of Chicago campus will remain open, the company said.

“It’s a sad day for the whole Pret family, and I’m devastated that we will be losing team members,” CEO Pano Christou said in a statement. “But we must make these changes to adapt to the new retail environment.”

With much of Pret’s business model focused on serving office workers, many of whom are currently working from home amid the pandemic, the chain is looking for new ways to reach consumers. The chain has recently partnered with Grubhub/Seamless for delivery and is planning to launch order ahead in the “near future,” the company said.

The chain is also exploring a retail coffee offering.

“We cannot defy gravity and continue with the business model we had before the pandemic,” Christou said. “That is why we have adapted our business and found new ways to reach our customers.”

Pret has reopened 51 locations in New York, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia after closing stores at the outset of the coronavirus crisis.

The chain operated 95 units and saw year-over-year sales growth of 4.7% in 2019, according to data from Restaurant Business sister company Technomic.

Panera Bread parent JAB Holding Co. acquired a majority stake in Pret in 2018.

Pret is one of many restaurant concepts, battered by pandemic-related sales losses, that have announced multiple unit closures in recent days. Others include Dunkin', which said Thursday it could close more than 1,000 global locations, and McDonald's, which plans to shutter up to 200 under-performing stores. 


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