Pret a Manger has announced the June opening of its first standalone vegetarian-only restaurant in Soho, London. The store is branded ‘Pret’s Little Veggie Pop up’, and is initially open for six weeks only as proof of concept.
The test store is part of their “Not Just for Veggies” campaign launched on April 19th to promote its vegetarian options and to encourage the occasional meat-free meal as part of a healthy lifestyle. Pret are not expecting the store to be a moneyspinner, but rather more a ‘live’ testing ground of its 40 new non meat options, demonstrating their commitment and providing the impetus to create tastier vegetarian food, as proof that “vegetarian food can be delicious enough to be enjoyed by everyone, not just ‘full-time’ vegetarians.”
The trial store is in response to positive feedback from 10,000 customers in an online poll last summer, following a blog written by Pret’s CEO, Clive Schlee asking customers how Pret could create more delicious vegetarian food.Pret saw double digit sales growth in vegetarian options in 2015, with demand for their veggie products growing faster than for meat. Its bestselling new product was a vegetarian Beets, Squash & Feta SuperBowl, selling 17,000 units a week and out-performing both the meat and fish options for the first time. Although that barely touches the 73,000 chicken caesar and bacon baguettes (Pret’s most popular sandwich) sold a week in the UK.
Its fastest growing ingredient was avocados. Pret’s customers ate over 11% of the 44 million consumed as part of Britain’s avocado love affair! The fruit is now more popular than oranges, with sales up 39% to £128 million in the 12 months to March 2016.
This shift in the UK’s eating habits is supported by macro trends indicating that people want more healthy choices and ingredients. According to recent research by Mintel, almost half (48%) of UK adults are trying to eat healthily ‘most of the time’.
This initiative follows another record year of sales at Pret with group sales rising by 13.9% to £676.2 million in 2015, whilst earnings rose 14.5% to £84.3 million. 36 new outlets were opened in 2015, bringing their total to 399. They now have outlets in the UK, US, France, Hong Kong and Shanghai with the US its fastest growing market and New York’s Penn Station its highest selling store per square foot.
Pret are clearly doing something right; maybe tapping into Britain’s hunger for healthy food and snacking options, and taking calculated risks while showing that they listen to their customers by giving them what they want is a good idea? Something to ponder on your way home tonight!