Sandwiches go gourmet at growing international British chain
NEW YORK, July 29 — Gourmet sandwich chain Pret a Manger from the UK is poised to become a leading international player in a growing segment of the fast food industry, at a time when chefs are being increasingly inventive with the portable, one-handed meal — which is enjoying rising popularity.
While the chain opened its first US outpost in New York in 2000, it's only in recent months that the British brand has stepped up the pace of its expansion, opening more locations in New York, Washington DC and Chicago.
This week, the company announced it had struck a major partnership with US retailer Target in Chicago, where the company will open an in-store location for shoppers. Target has 1,763 stores across the US.
Pret a Manger, which is play on the French term for “ready-to-wear” and means “ready-to-eat”, makes its foods on-site every day. Sandwiches pay homage to British tastes, with flavours like curry-spiced Coronation Chicken with fruit chutney and toasted almonds, and Scottish smoked salmon with cucumber slices and soft cream cheese.
More international flavours include Moroccan falafels and hummus and Thai avocado and spinach, and ingredients are preservative-free.
Pret has 12 locations in Hong Kong and three shops in France. The chain opened 22 new shops in 2011 and plans to open up to 30 new locations this year. Currently, there are about 300 stores around the world.
It's no surprise that a British brand is emerging as a player to watch in the sandwich world, given that the Brits are said to have created what is perhaps the most ubiquitous lunchtime meal staple in the Western world.
This year, the sandwich celebrated its 250th anniversary, centuries after the Earl of Sandwich is supposed to have invented the one-handed meal during a high-stakes gambling streak in which he called for cuts of beef to be brought to him between slices of bread so that he could continue playing undisturbed.
Meanwhile, a market research report released earlier this year out of the US found that consumers are eating more sandwiches today than they were two years ago, mainly because of their value for money and the variety of healthy options.
British retailer Marks & Spencer is likewise known for its gourmet sandwiches. — AFP/Relaxnews