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The company that had the motto ‘follow the skyscrapers’ – a reference to opening stores based around offices, is experimenting with more of a ‘Follow the supermarket’ as it seals a deal with the giant Tesco Plc to open stores inside the supermarkets themselves.

This is not a new tactic, and in the UK many Tesco stores already have a Harris and Hoole coffee shop. Pret a Manager themselves had started selling a limited selection of their menu in supermarkets last year as the pandemic devastated the business. The company was forced to act in 2020 to stem massive losses, laying off a third of its workforce – over 3,000 workers, and closed 74 shops in the UK and 22 in the US.

Even as we see the economy opening back up, there is a question mark over how many office workers will return to their desks in the city. CEO of Pret a Manger, Pano Christou has shown that he is ready to steer the company through the most challenging time of the companies history.

His pragmatic approach has been evidenced by his ability and willingness to cut hard when necessary, and shed the original ‘follow the skyscraper’ approach which made the company a success, to replace it with something else – perhaps follow the supermarket?

As the UK emerges from lockdown, this partnership with Tesco is one way in which we’re transforming our business model – Pano Christou

Initially, just four stores will be targeted in the trial, but with more planned if it goes well. Beyond supermarkets the company is also looking at motorway service stations.

It seems that the focus is on finding where there are captive audiences and offering them an enjoyable space for a sandwich and coffee. There’s nothing terribly new about this, except that Pret a Manger has a particular menu, style and atmosphere that carries great appeal to many.

Christou may argue that the underlying principle of the motto hasn’t changed, he has just refined it. Instead of following the skyscraper, it should now read – ‘follow the people’.


  • Nick Baskett


    Nick Baskett is the editor in Chief at Bartalks. He holds a diploma from the Financial Times as a Non Executive Director and works as a consultant across multiple industries. Nick has owned multiple businesses, including an award-winning restaurant and coffee shop in North Macedonia.

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