Pret triangle sandwich

London Bankers Steer Clear of the Office on Fridays

London’s financial districts have filled up again, driving weekday business to cafes and sandwich shops – except on Fridays, that is.

The number of customers visiting Pret A Manger Ltd. shops in the city’s banking hubs is almost back to pre-pandemic levels, but it crashes by up to 80% every Friday. Bloomberg’s Pret Index shows that the anomaly is holding back an otherwise successful return-to-office push.

The figures show that the hybrid model of working part of the week from the office and the rest from home is still overwhelmingly popular in industries such as banking, where firms are raising pay and addressing burnout issues amid a war for talent.

In an interview earlier this week, Credit Suisse Group AG Chief Executive Officer Thomas Gottstein said he doesn’t think banks will ever return to working full-time from the office.

“It’s unrealistic and it is not what employees want,” he said in an interview at the World Economic forum in Davos, Switzerland. “We are in a soft way trying to encourage people to come back, but it’s counterproductive if you push too hard.”

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

Sales in London’s entertainment and shopping district are about a fifth above pre-pandemic levels.

Pret’s business in London’s airport terminals is now a quarter higher than it was before the pandemic as business and leisure travel roars back.

Sales in the cluster that includes Wall Street and Tribeca still show that a full recovery is lagging months behind London’s financial districts. New York City is in the midst of its fifth Covid-19 wave, with cases rising.

Transactions in New York’s Midtown entertainment and business district bounced back even as the spread of the omicron subvariant continues to affect the city.

Pret’s business in Paris last week matched a pandemic high set in March. Transactions in France’s capital are almost back to normal.

Pret wrap sandwich

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

Pret’s transactions in London train stations dipped slightly but are still hovering around pre-crisis levels.

Transactions in Hong Kong are close to two-thirds of normal levels as the city recovers from a surge in cases in 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.