EAT cafes will disappear from the high street after rival Pret A Manger has agreed to buy the chain and turn them into vegetarian-only stores.
The coffee chain plans to convert as many of EAT’s 90 shops as possible into “Veggie Prets” to meet the growing demand for vegetarian and vegan food on the high street.
David New – The Sun Pret plans to turn as many EAT branches as possible into Veggie Prets
There are already four Veggie Prets branches in London and Manchester having already launched over the past two years, selling only meat-free and vegan sandwiches and salads.
The agreement is still subject to approval from the competitions watchdog the Competitions Markets Authority (CMA), which recently pulled the plug on a a merger between Sainsbury’s and Asda.
As it stands, there are no plans to close any EAT stores or cut staff numbers and the branches that aren’t converted into veggie-only cafes will be turned in a normal Pret.
If the deal does go ahead it would mean that there will be more than 640 branches of Pret cafes across the UK, up from 550 now.
There are already four Veggie Prets in Manchester and London
Clive Schlee, CEO of Pret said: “We have been developing the Veggie Pret concept for over two years and we now have four hugely successful shops across London and Manchester.
“The acquisition of the EAT estate is a wonderful opportunity to turbo charge the development of Veggie Pret and put significant resources behind it.”
Top boss of EAT, Andrew Walker, said: “I am delighted that their efforts have been recognised through this transaction.
“It has been a privilege to lead EAT for the past three years, and I believe this acquisition creates new opportunities for employees and customers alike.”
At the beginning of last year there were doubts over the future of EAT as it hired KMPG to handle a possible company voluntary agreement (CVA).
In the end, it closed around 20 branches – or 10 per cent of its high street stores – without having to take out a CVA.
EAT opened the doors of its first branch in 1996 by Niall and Faith MacArthur near Charing Cross station in London.
They expanded across the capital and eventually to cities such as Birmingham, Cambridge, Manchester, Edinburgh, Portsmouth and Bristol.
Most of its stores are at train stations and airports as and in addition to its 94 British outlets, it has a branch in Madrid run under franchise by Ibersol, and two more in France and one in Bahrain run by SSP.
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Pret told The Sun that it expects a decision from the CMA in the second half of the year when, if approved, it begin the process of changing the stores.
The coffee-chain has recently come under fire for inadequate food labelling after an inquest into the death of 15-year-old student Natasha Ednan-Laperouse found that she died from an allergic reaction to a sandwich from the cafe.
Since then, it has pledged to list all ingredients on food labels.
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