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Coronavirus: Pret a Manger job cut fears as sales plunge

Person walks out of Pret with a baguette

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A leaked video revealing how sales have plunged at Pret a Manger during the coronavirus crisis has raised fears about job cuts at the sandwich chain.

Boss Pano Christou told staff in a recent online meeting that an announcement about the “job situation” would be made on 8 July.

He said Pret’s global weekly takings had fallen to £3m, just 15% of what they would normally be.

A Pret spokeswoman said staff would be the “first to hear about any changes”.

Pret stores in the UK, the US and France have been hit hard by lockdowns as office workers stayed in their homes.

In May, Pret called in consultants to help renegotiate its rents as it attempted to avoid store closures, and said it was putting a “clear plan” in place to deal with reduced footfall.

That plan could involve job cuts.

In a recent video call to staff, which was leaked and shared on Twitter, Mr Panou discussed the “job situation”:

“What will be the case is, on the 8 July, we’ll be doing a broader communication to the teams, just talking through the initial work that’s been done on this, so things will start to become clearer from 8 July,” he said.

A Pret spokeswoman said: “As we have already confirmed, at the end of May we appointed advisers to help Pret develop a comprehensive transformation plan to adapt to the new retail environment.”

“Transparency is very important in our business and we will make sure that Pret’s team members are the first to hear about any changes. We will update our team members in early July once the plan has been finalised.”

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Restaurants and food chains have been hit hard by coronavirus lockdown measures.

Last week bosses at restaurant and food chains including Wagamama and Pizza Hut warned Prime Minister Boris Johnson that the sector faces mass job cuts without more help.

Although Pret has re-opened more than 300 stores in the UK, they are only offering takeaway or delivery services. The firm is trialling a click-and-collect service so customers can avoid queuing when demand returns.

The video call indicated that sales were substantially down compared with normal figures, although improving as lockdown restrictions lift.

‘Intense negotiations’

When asked what sales Pret needed to make for the company to stop losing money, he said: “I think globally we’ll need our sales to get to about 60% [of pre-crisis levels] to break even.”

“We’re trying to aim to the month of September to get to that 60% but clearly there is a lot of work going into that from the team, but at the same time we’re so dependent on footfall coming back into the cities to drive our sales up.”

Mr Christou said the chain’s US stores took close to $100,000 in sales in one week recently, a 98% drop from pre-crisis levels.

In the same video, Pret’s UK managing director, Clare Clough, said UK sales were down almost 90%. “We’re creeping up point by point, but we’re still sitting around -86% in the UK,” she said.

In the meeting, Ms Clough said the company is engaging in “quite intense negotiations” with more than 300 individual landlords to deal with property costs.

She encouraged staff to drive up sales, saying: “We want to make sure that we are the winners as people come back onto the High Street.”

Industry body UK Hospitality has urged the government to find a solution to the rental problems facing many businesses in the struggling hospitality sector.

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