Thursday 27 August 2020 6:48 pm

Pret a Manger to axe 2,800 jobs as sales fall to lowest level in a decade

High street stalwart Pret a Manger said today that it would cut 2,800 jobs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which has seen sales drop to levels last seen a decade ago.

The announcement comes after Pret earlier this year revealed that it would not reopen 30 of its restaurants after the lockdown ended.

Read more: Retail employment falls at sharpest rate in more than a decade

Sales at the eatery, a common site in city centres around the country, remain around 60 per cent down this year.

The chain is especially popular with office workers, the majority of whom are yet to return to their offices on a full time basis.

Around 1,000 other jobs at the firm were preserved, Pret said, as a result of staff moving to minimum hours contracts.

By the time the restructuring is finished, Pret’s headcount will have shrunk to 6,000 across 367 stores.

Chief executive Pano Christou said that he was “gutted” by the redundancies.

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“I’m gutted that we’ve had to lose so many colleagues. Although we’re now starting to see a steady but slow recovery, the pandemic has taken away almost a decade of growth at Pret”, he said.

“We’ve managed to protect many jobs by making changes to the way we run our shops and the hours we ask Team Members to work.

“I’m hopeful we’ll be able to review all these changes now that trade is improving again, and I’m encouraged by the improvements we’re seeing every week.”

Although weekly sales at Pret rose seven per cent in July, they currently stand at £5.2m, the same level as in August 2010.

Pret’s cuts come just days after the CBI revealed that employment in the retail sector fell 45 per cent in August, the sharpest drop since February 2009.

According to the CBI, that figure will only grow as the government winds down its job retention scheme over the next two months.

Read more: Marks & Spencer to axe 7,000 jobs within three months amid pandemic

As a result, many have called for an extension to the furlough scheme, warning that if the government does not take action the UK could be hit by a massive wave of redundancies over the winter.

Pret’s Christou thanked the government for its support, saying he hoped that it continued “for as long as possible”.