Pret A Manger strikes deal with Reliance to launch sandwich stores in India

Pret A Manger has announced a franchise partnership with India’s Reliance to launch the sandwich chain in the south Asian country.

Reliance, India’s biggest listed company, will open about 10 Pret shops in the first year, with the number rising to up to 100 over five years under a long-term master franchise partnership. The company plans to start with “major” cities and travel hubs.

The move follows the announcement last year that Pret had received £100mn in funding from its owner JAB Holding and one of its founders Sinclair Beecham to double in size and expand into new markets.

The company has struck deals this month to launch the brand in Spain and Portugal, as well as to expand its number of stores in the UAE, following previous announcements that it would begin operating in Canada, the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Kuwait.

The deal revealed on Thursday marks Reliance’s first move into the food industry. Its fashion and lifestyle ventures in India range from international high-fashion brands such as Burberry to US jeweller Tiffany & Co and blue-chip marques such as Mothercare.

“Our partnership with Pret is rooted in the strong growth potential of both Pret as a brand and also of the food and beverage industry in India,” said Darshan Mehta, managing director of Reliance Brands Limited.

“RBL closely follows the pulse of Indian consumers and there is an increased consciousness of what we eat, rapidly making food the new fashion . . . Couple that with the high recall the brand enjoys in the country, it’s undoubtedly a recipe for success,” he added.

RBL is a subsidiary of Reliance Retail Ventures Limited, whose parent company Reliance Industries previously acquired the British toy retailer Hamleys in 2019.

Reliance’s retail division is India’s largest company in the sector, operating nearly 13,000 stores across the country, which is the world’s fastest growing major economy.

It is an inauspicious time to launch a sandwich store in India, where consumer goods companies are contending with sharp rates of inflation. Running at a rate of more than 7 per cent a year, the rapid price rises are eating into people’s spending and business leaders have warned it could hit profits.

Pret’s chief executive Pano Christou said: “We’re looking forward to working . . . on what is our most ambitious global franchise partnership to date.”

Pret has 558 shops across the UK, US, Hong Kong, France, UAE, Switzerland, Belgium, Singapore and Germany.

Founded in 1983, it built its business on selling sandwiches and coffee to city commuters looking for a quick lunch but its daily trade was badly hit by lockdowns during the pandemic.

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