Every Pret a Manger employee is to receive a £1,000 windfall as the British sandwich shop chain is taken over by the German-controlled company behind Krispy Kreme doughnuts and Kenco coffee, in a deal worth more than £1.5bn.
Bridgepoint, the UK-based private equity firm, has agreed to sell Pret to the investment group JAB Holdings, which has been rapidly acquiring companies linked to the coffee market in recent years.
On Tuesday, Clive Schlee, the Pret a Manger chief executive, said 12,000 of its employees, from head office staff to baristas, would receive a £1,000 payout on completion of the deal.
Schlee said: “The £1,000 bonus will be paid to all employees who are on the payroll during the week the deal completes. It’s serendipity for those who have just joined.”
Staff at a Pret shop in London had no idea the company had been sold when asked by a reporter on Tuesday morning, and were incredulous that they would receive a £1,000 bonus.
“What? Why? Why would you give us £1,000 each?” said Fatu, a barista from Guinea in west Africa. “They don’t need to give us money if they sell the company.” Fatu, who has been working at Pret for five years and loves it, said she would save all of her £1,000.
Lidia-Alexandra Sipos, a Pret team leader, said she would also save most of her £1,000 windfall after buying a gift for her mother. “She helped me so much to get here, and I want to give her something special to say thank you,” she said.
Sipos started work at Pret two weeks after arriving in the UK from Romania in 2016 on the recommendation of her sister who was already working at the chain. “Pret really does look after you,” she said. “I quit in December to try and get an office management job, but I study two days a week and it’s hard to get a job that lets you do that.
“So Pret helped me come back in February, and I can study management at college on Tuesdays and Thursday. And it pays better than receptionist work.” Sipos said she gets paid £9.70 an hour with a £1-an-hour bonus if the store passes regular mystery shopper tests. She said the store almost always passes the points-based test, as “we all come together as a team to make sure everything is always a good standard”.
Pret is based in London, where it was started by the entrepreneur Julian Metcalfe and his friend Sinclair Beecham with one shop in 1986. Metcalfe went on to create the Itsu restaurant chain and Metcalfe’s skinny popcorn.
Having expanded rapidly in recent years, opening 50 shops in the past year alone, Pret has more than 500 stores, generating revenues of £879m. It also has stores in the US, China and Dubai.
The company is trying to attract more British workers as it prepares for potential staff shortages after Brexit and seeks to expand further in the US and internationally.
The sale of Pret will mark a lucrative payday for Bridgepoint, which paid £364m, including debt, to buy the chain about a decade ago. The private equity firm had been considering floating the company on the New York stock exchange, as it eyed further expansion into the $41bn (£32bn) a year US coffee shop market.
Instead, the deal will bring Pret under the ownership of Luxembourg-based JAB, which is an investment vehicle for Germany’s reclusive Reimann family.
Alongside Krispy Kreme and Kenco, JAB owns the Douwe Egberts and Tassimo coffee brands. It announced a deal to take control of Dr Pepper Snapple, the fifth-largest fizzy drink maker in the world, for $18.7bn earlier this year, in order to combine it with its US-based Keurig Green Mountain business.
Olivier Goudet, the JAB chief executive, said: “We’re very excited to partner with Pret and its talented team to continue their extraordinary growth story.”
Copyright © 2018 theguardian.com. All rights reserved.