Pret a Manger in talks to gobble up Eat to fuel expansion

Pret a Manger is in talks to buy rival sandwich chain Eat as part of plans to expand its specialist vegetarian operation.

The London-based coffee shop firm is understood to be in line to buy the majority of Eat’s 94 stores to step up expansion of its Veggie Pret format.

The majority of Eat’s outlets are in London but it also has sites in key towns and cities around the UK, including Birmingham and Manchester, as well as airport stores in Bristol, Edinburgh and Heathrow.

Pret has four vegetarian outlets, three in London and one in Manchester. It is keen to expand the operation due to rising demand for plant-based meals, according to the London Evening Standard, which first reported the deal.

Pret said: “We never comment on rumour or speculation.”

The proposed deal comes after Eat was put up for sale by its private equity owners Horizon Capital in February. It made a £17.3m loss in the 12 months to June 2018 and a £18.9m loss the previous year.

Overall sales slipped more than 4% to £94.9m as cafes and restaurants faced heavy competition. A slowdown in spending has also led consumers to remain cautious amid Brexit uncertainty.

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The chain, which was founded in 1996 by husband and wife Niall and Faith MacArthur, opened its first shop next to Charing Cross station in central London.

Pret has backing to expand after it was bought a year ago by JAB Holdings, a Luxembourg-based investment fundowned by Germany’s wealthy Reimann family.

The chain has recently faced criticism after the death of two customers who had allergic reactions to its sandwiches.

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