Updated: Aug 25, 2021
The Chesterford Group (TCG), which operates around 40 sites under Churchill’s, Fish’n'Chick’n and Bankers, has signed up to become one of the first regional UK franchisees for Pret A Manger.
The pilot will see TCG take over four existing Pret stores as part of the sandwich chain’s plan to launch around 100 franchises outside London and other big UK cities.
Both companies agree that their business models complement each other, with TCG keen to explore more opportunities away from fish and chips and Pret eager to tap into TCG’s expertise in operating and running sites on regional high streets.
Paul Goodgame, managing director at TCG, explained the partnership, saying: “It’s really difficult to grow fish and chips at pace. Almost every good parade has a fish and chip shop on it and those really good shops tend to stay in families for generations. When they do come up we grab them, we’re still very keen to continue to grow the fish and chip side of the business but The Chesterford Group needs to create opportunities to continue to grow.
“It’s a good bit of diversification for us too as there is a lot of pressure on fish prices at the moment and fish and chips is very VAT-heavy, whereas with the Pret side a lot of what it sells is zero-rated VAT so it will give us a good balance.”
A Pret spokesperson added: “Over the past few years, we’ve seen there’s a real demand from customers in different parts of the country for our freshly prepared food and organic coffee. In some areas, such as regional towns and parts of northern England, our shops are busier than they have ever been. We’re looking to establish new partnerships with franchise partners to bring Pret to more people in towns and travel hubs across the UK, and we’re also looking at where we can open more shops which we run directly.”
Pret closed 39 stores last year in a bid to reduce its cost base after high footfall sites, especially those in London, were hit hard by the pandemic.