Chain Spotting: Part 1 – The sandwich wars

For better or worse, London has seen a growth of city-wide chains in recent years. Chain spotting labeled posts are our guide, whether you want to avoid chains, embrace them, or balance your consumption of local and chains (our usual approach). There is such high competition that often if an establishment has made it enough to become a chain, that means it’s usually doing something right. That said, these are chains – what’s great and awful about them is a dependable, mass-market appeal. We welcome hearing about your experiences…

Part 1: Pret v Eat

Pret – Okay, so less a restaurant and more like the most awesome sandwich shop ever invented. A and C could seriously eat at least one meal at Pret every single day of our lives. This is not an uncommon feeling for many Londoners. Their soup is yummy, their sandwiches are fresh and tasty and though there is always a core of ‘favourites’ – club, tuna, egg salad, etc – they have weekly specials and seasonal specials – my favourite sandwich they had only this summer was a duck and mango sandwich – omg, amazing. They also have a vegetarian special each week and a rocking humous and falafel sandwich. Plus, they are everwhere. I do try to go to local sandwich shops when I can, but…Pret uses all natural ingredients, sources locally, and doesn’t drown their sandwiches in butter and oily cheese like I find local sandwich shops tend to do. So, take your pick. Also, impress any international visitors with the great-tasting food you have access to for fairly cheap and on the go. My mother and best friend still talk about it. A’s Dad also still talks about it. Only sad thing: their coffee is really crappy. Just go next door to Starbucks or Nero as there is usually one nearby if you’re in a chain coffee mood. Final note: definitely don’t ever struggle through the full French name ‘Pret a Manager’ – no. It’s Pret. That’s what everyone calls it.

Full disclosure: you may hear rumours that McDonald’s owns Pret. I was pretty devastated when I first heard this. I’ve finally actually researched it though and super good news – McDonald’s bought a 33% stake in Pret, which started in 1986 in London, in 2001. In 2008, Pret finally offloaded McDonald’s and in partnership with Bridgepoint, an equity firm, bought back that 33% stake. So, Pret has strong financial backing, but no longer has McDonald’s involved. Happy eating!

Eat – pretty much exactly like Pret, except less good. You can find them widely across London – just look for the beige and white sign (See? Already less fun). There is a dividing line here – some people really prefer Eat, others Pret, but in the store battle I think Pret’s probably going to win. Eat’s soups are super, super amazing. I do admit I prefer them to Pret’s. However, A prefers Pret soups. Case in point. Dunno. Sandwiches just aren’t as fun or memorable. But only just.


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