It is exactly a year ago since high street eatery Pret a Manger opened its first Veggie Pret store.
The outlet, on Soho’s Broadwick Street, was initially intended as a summer pop-up – an experiment in response to customer feedback asking for more vegan and veggie options. Pret bosses expected sales to fall, but three months after it opened, meat-free diners were delighted to hear that the store was to become a permanent fixture.
Hype meant the shop was busy for the first four weeks, but after the media buzz died down, the diners kept on coming.
Writing a blog post, Pret CEO Clive Schlee, said: “What is it about the shop that has struck such a chord? Clearly, the move towards a plant-based diet is gathering momentum, especially among millennials.
“Vegetarians and vegans are an articulate and social media-savvy group. Many of you have been advocating eating less meat for years and have been thrilled to see a major UK business take up the cause.
“We have had over 20,000 customer comments in the past twelve weeks and many of you have offered heartfelt thanks to Pret for making a bold move. Even Sir Paul McCartney emailed.”
According to Schlee, Pret’s goal was to ‘encourage meat eaters to try more veggie food by making sure it looks and tastes better’.
The stats seem to bear out the decision to tap into the burgeoning flexitarian market – with over half of customers at Veggie Pret saying they are meat eaters. He said: “Our early insights remain true – vegan dishes and sweet treats are the biggest-sellers and the Cacao & Orange Pot has sold ten times the number we’d predicted!”
As far back as September the company was looking at where to base a second store, with bosses finally deciding on Shoreditch.
Back in March Schlee said: “We opened our Veggie Pret pop up as an experiment last year, never imagining it would be around for more than a month.
“We ended up making it permanent and I can now tell you that our second Veggie Pret will open at Great Eastern Street in Shoreditch on April 4. A lot of Pret staff wanted their shops to go Veggie, but Great Eastern St got the call up based on the high levels of vegetarian sales in the area.”
The new store heralded new vegan offerings, with a mac and cheese style dish and salted caramel brownie topping the bill – garnering huge attention on social media.
Building on the success of the London veggie stores, the company is taking the model further afield.
Schlee said: “It seems the movement for eating less meat continues to grow.
“The next stop for Pret will be the US, where we’ll be launching a new veggie range in all our US shops.”