Pret A Manger to open first standalone vegetarian store following online poll

Pret A Manger is set to open its first standalone vegetarian store following positive feedback from customers showing an interest in cafes serving only non-meat options. Branded ‘Pret’s Little Veggie Pop-up’, the site will open in Soho in June for a month only, with Pret’s chief marketing officer Mark Palmer admitting that “more could follow”.

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The pop-up, which will be a conversion of an existing Pret store, will feature 40 exclusive lines – including cauliflower rice and courgetti pots, as well as open rye bread sandwiches – alongside Pret’s existing vegetarian options.

The move comes as Pret revealed today (18 April) that sales rose 13.9% to £676.2m for the 52 weeks to 1 January 2016. Like-for-like sales, meanwhile, were up 7.5% as pre-tax profits shot up 14.5% to £84.3m.

READ MORE: Pret A Manger’s marketing boss on succeeding without advertising

The decision to open a vegetarian-only offering has been fuelled by a spike in sales of non-meat items at Pret over recent years. Avocado is now the most prominent single ingredient used by Pret, while its mini egg and spinach protein pot, aimed at the snacking market, was its fastest growing new product launch in 2015, shifting 1.4 million units.

Last summer, Pret’s CEO Clive Schlee wrote a blog discussing the idea of opening new cafes that only serve non-meat options. And after receiving 10,000 votes in favour of the scheme, the chain decided to progress test out the format.

Palmer told Marketing Week: “It isn’t just the number of vegetarians that are growing but also meat eaters just wanting to switch up their routine; a switch to clean eating is definitely the biggest trend we’re seeing among Brits.”

He added: “A small number of dedicated vegetarian and vegan shops could possibly follow this one and it isn’t something we’re going to rule out. However, the most likely outcome here is we treat the space as a live audition for new non-meat options.

“Usually a brand will create a new concept, like the veggie store, and commit to rolling it out across hundreds of sites. But why? That is risky. It is lower risk to be patient. To take a learning from one site and then apply that innovation across the business.”

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Veggie options will drive Pret’s NPD in 2016

Veggie-centric marketing plans

In the build-up to June, Pret will celebrate its existing vegetarian and non-meat options. The slogan ‘Not Just For Veggies’ will be advertised throughout its 308 UK sites and on bags. Veggie food packaging will also be changed so that product stickers are a prominent green to make them more identifiable over meat options.

Pret’s Chef Specials line will now be purely vegetarian until September and it has launched seven new non-meat lines including an acai breakfast bowl, a falafel and halloumi hot wrap and a red tapenade and avocado ‘Super Bowl.’

“The whole point of the new in-store marketing campaign is you don’t need to be vegetarian to enjoy this food. The marketing industry loves to put customers into boxes but we’re seeing our customers become more experimental,” explained Palmer. “All the macro trends in the UK show people want more healthy choices and ingredients so the brands that follow that mantra will win.”

He insists that Pret doesn’t need to commit to above the line ad spend as currently “word of mouth buzz is much more compelling”.

The future of ‘Good Evenings’

Last year, Pret revealed the trial concept ‘Good Evenings’, which saw a store turn into a restaurant from 6pm onwards serving wine, beer and fine dining options.

Palmer said the restaurant concept will continue at its store on The Strand, but will also be expanded to other shops under a “different iteration”.

When asked if Pret would ever be interested in entering the restaurant trade permanently, Palmer answered: “Does Pret want to offer more delicious choices appropriate for the evening? Yes and the trial has taught us we need to do that.

“Will we rollout separate standalone restaurants? Never say never. We think the brand can definitely do that but at the moment that isn’t our priority. We just want to test new things out and then apply the learnings across our estate.”

Festival

Pret’s group marketing director will be speaking at Festival of Marketing, which is running on 5 and 6 October at Tobacco Dock, London. For more information about the event, including how to book tickets, click here.

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