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Is Pret A Manger Upscale Fast Food or Fast Casual?

A sandwich shop carving out the upscale fast food segment for themselves


Pret A Manger sandwich shop on Broadway in Manhattan

Pret A Manger sandwich shop on Broadway in Manhattan

Pret A Manger

When I say sandwich shop, what comes to mind? Probably Quiznos, Subway, Schlotzky's and the plethora of "burgers and" concepts flourishing recently. Sandwich shops are more like fast food or the industry term Quick Service Restaurants (QSR). In the US, the food service industry segments into fast food, fast casual, casual dining and fine dining.

The Pret A Manger Concept

Pret A Manger is a concept based in the UK that is technically a sandwich shop but feels more like a fast casual concept such as Panera Bread. Pret is a restaurant that sells sandwiches, salads, soups and wonderful baked goodies. They pride themselves on building a kitchen in every shop. Fresh is the word… "you won't find 'sell by' dates on our fresh sandwiches and salads" according to their web site. Think of them as a restaurant to go.

Pret appeals to the time starved, healthy, value driven urban customer with a range of products in the $3.89 to $6.99 price range.

I decided to visit a Pret A Manger in New York City since it is a unique blend of upscale fast food and fast casual I spoke with Sebastian Wright, VP of Food, Pret A Manger US and Martin Bates, President, Pret A Manger US

Fast Food or Fast Casual

I wondered if Pret's brand positioning was Upscale Fast Food or "Faster" Fast Casual? I say faster since they pride themselves in getting a customer out of the store in 60 seconds once the customer makes their selection. "We didn't set out to try and fit into any niche. Hopefully, our customers (adults and kids alike) view us as making accessible, delicious and affordable food that is quick and easy to grab and go while only using ingredients free of odd preservatives. " - Martin Bates, President, Pret A Manger US

Pret's no stranger to competition since their New York base has customers with a repertoire of different eating establishments. It appears that the brand has carved out a unique segment of upscale, healthier, portable food that is also fast… so Panera Bread is not a direct competitor. Pret's own research affirms this customer delight since the average customer comes in 3 times per week. However they are keeping their eye on Panera Bread… the chain is schedule to open 3 Manhattan stores in the near future.

Upscale Fast Food Trend McDonalds McCafe Leading the Trend

McCafe from McDonalds is positioned as upscale and they have successfully reinvented their brand with McCafe's strong beverage performance fueling phenomenal worldwide sales growth.

McDonalds USA is grabbing more share of stomach with a host of with the successful new product launches. If McCafe is attracting new customers with a new product, will McDonalds be strong future competition since McDonalds surely sees the opportunity to create a line of grab n go McCafe sandwiches. "There was a time when McDonalds actually owned a 1/3 share in the Pret and they divested themselves of ownership in 2005. McDonalds is driven by affordability, price point and a delivery of high calories for less. Our customers come in looking for the right blend of price, convenience and great tasting food." a ccording to Sebastian.

Pret's Passion Facts - Solid yet Subtle Messages throughout the Store

Like Whole Foods, Pret has core values of freshness, simple ingredients and better for you products. To reinforce this, they have their Passion Facts peppered throughout the store.

Passion Facts consist of wonderful photography with short messages about the food and the care each meal gets from their chefs. For example many restaurants say they use grilled chicken but in reality it is chicken, not grilled, with artificial grill marks placed on the chicken breast! So one Passion Fact is all of their grilled chicken is the real thing from a company called Murray's Chicken.

Another Passion Fact, Pret has a real kitchen creating foods on premise vs. the sandwiches, soups and salads created in a central commissary and trucked in. This gives them the ability to say "Here Today… gone today".

Why does Pret A Manger stay clear of the American trend in supersized meals?
  1. About.com
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  5. Sandwich shops are Upscale Fast Food... hybrid fast food and fast casual restaurant. Pret A Manger is an upscale fast food sandwich shop from the UK. This urban sandwich shop may be coming to a suburban shopping center near you.

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