Pret triangle sandwich

Bankers Summer in Square Mile as Offices Fill Up

The return of London’s bankers to offices last week following school vacations and UK national holidays pushed transactions at Pret A Manger Ltd in the capital’s financial districts close to a pandemic high.

But that progress is set to be tested this week by a raft of strikes affecting rail lines and London’s Underground network starting Tuesday which are likely to keep workers away from their desks.

Sales of coffee and sandwiches in the City and Canary Wharf were 88% of pre-Covid-19 levels through last Thursday, according to the latest figures tracked by Bloomberg’s Pret Index – a sign that the lunch hour is almost totally back to normal in clusters populated by scores of finance, corporate law and asset management professionals.

That’s in stark contrast to limping sales on Wall Street, where return-to-office plans and Pret’s business in downtown New York have been impacted by a recent wave of infections.

Bloomberg is monitoring Pret’s transactions each week for the latest in this glimpse at the pandemic recovery. Click here for details on the methodology.

Pret coffee

Transactions are back above pre-pandemic levels in the West End arts, entertainment and shopping districts after falling slightly in the two weeks prior due to the UK national holidays.

Pret’s business in London’s airport terminals is about a third higher than it was before the crisis, despite chaos brought on by recent flight cancellations and delays.

Sales in the cluster that includes Wall Street and Tribeca still aren’t climbing after the latest Covid peak was declared over by New York City Mayor Eric Adams.

Transactions in New York’s Midtown entertainment and business district are faring better as tourists head into the city for the summer. They’re now at about two-thirds of pre-Covid levels.

Pret’s business in Paris is at a pandemic high and just shy of normal.

Pret wrap sandwich

Pret has recently prioritized growth in suburban and regional areas of London, according to CEO Pano Christou, who anticipates most employers will permanently offer hybrid home-and-office working arrangements.

Pret’s transactions in London train stations are back to normal as residents return to offices and the city to shop and dine.

Transactions in Hong Kong are recovering after being heavily impacted by a surge in infections during the spring.

Pret sandwich

As people look for signs that the world is getting back to normal, Pret is providing weekly data to Bloomberg about its sales across major business hubs on an exclusive basis. The figures give a global perspective on whether demand for breakfast and lunch items is returning to shopping centers, financial districts and airports.

The Pret Index is calculated against a baseline from January 2020, before the pandemic upended the cities tracked, and compares transaction data starting from March 8 against the average from that month. Every point (.01) on the index represents 1% progress toward returning to those January 2020 levels.

Sandwich sales are an imperfect measure, but the figures compiled by Pret provide at least one real-time gauge of the cities’ recovery.