Porridge helps Pret a Manger stay hot

 
City A.M. Reporter
Sandwich chain Pret a Manger has said sales of hot food such as porridge were helping it to thrive in tough consumer environment as it posted a 37 per cent rise in its 2010 core earnings.

The chain, majority owned by private equity firm Bridgepoint , said it planned to open more than 30 shops this year as it becomes increasingly confident about its expansion in the US and debuts in France.

"We haven't seen a particular slowdown since then (the fourth quarter of 2010)," chief executive Clive Schlee told Reuters, contrasting with a string of British retailers which have reported tougher trading in recent weeks as inflation rises and government cutbacks bite.

Pret a Manger, which runs 265 outlets in the UK, US and Hong Kong, said sales at shops open over a year rose 9.8 per cent last year.

Double-digit percentage growth in the first part of the year slowed to about five per cent by the fourth quarter and had stayed around that level since, Schlee said in a telephone interview.

The chain was seeing particularly strong demand for budget ranges like filter coffer for 99p and an egg mayonnaise sandwich for £1.50. But other items were also selling well, with customers snapping up around 50,000 bowls of porridge a week, making it the firm's top-selling new product, he said.

Schlee said Pret a Manger planned to open at least ten shops in London and ten more elsewhere in the UK this year, plus 10-12 in the US, creating around 700 jobs in total.