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LONDON, Sept 22 - Coffee and sandwich chain Pret AManger plans to double in size over the next five years,replacing a previous UK focus on offices with expansion inregional and suburban areas, transport hubs and motorway servicestations.
Urban fast food outlets were hit hard during the COVID-19pandemic, prompting some to re-think their growth strategies.
Pret, owned by investment group JAB and founder SinclairBeecham, said on Wednesday it plans to open more than 200 UKshops in the next two years, including 100 franchise shops.
It also intends to enter five new markets in Europe, theMiddle East and Asia by the end of 2023 and invest in newdigital capabilities.
Pret, as it is commonly known, currently runs 550 shopsacross five markets, the UK, U.S., France, Dubai and Hong Kong.
Majority owner JAB and Beecham will invest a further 100million pounds ($137 million), on top of the 185 million poundsthey ploughed in to get Pret through COVID.
Pret closed stores and shed jobs during the crisis asrevenue slid 58% to 299 million pounds in 2020 and the grouprecorded an operating loss of 256.5 million pounds.
Many of its UK stores are located close to offices, whichwere badly hit when people started working from home.
Pret said its recovery plan shifts from "following theskyscraper" to serving more people across the UK and overseas.
"Pret has just under 400 stores in the UK and a lot of ournational competitors have 2,000-2,500, so we see that there'shuge runway for us to grow the brand," Pret CEO Pano Christoutold Reuters.
"We are just broadening our approach to growth," he said.
Pret said that over the last month its trading had gatheredpace, with regional shops performing at their strongest levels.
The group's workforce has grown 28% since the start of 2021.It now employs nearly 8,000 globally, including 6,400 in the UK,and is aiming to hire a further 3,000 by the end of 2023.
To help it survive the pandemic, Pret has transformed itsoperating model and last year launched a subscription servicefor drinks.
The service was added to the U.S. last week and launches inother markets are planned over the next few months, Christousaid. REUTERS