The UK high street chain has agreed to acquire Eat from private equity firm Horizon Capital for an undisclosed amount, although sources have said the deal could be valued between £55m ($69.4m) and $60m ($75.7m).
The first Eat outlet was opened in London in 1996. Today, the chain has 94 premises – predominantly in London, with a small number in other cities including Birmingham and Manchester, and one in Paris.
However, it has struggled with the growing competition in the fast-food sector and posted a loss of £17.2m ($21.7m) in the year ending June 20, 2018.
Pret plans to transform many of Eat’s outlets into Veggie Prets, a concept created by Pret’s CEO Clive Schlee after his daughter converted to vegetarianism.
“The purpose of this deal is to serve a growing demand of vegetarian and vegan customers... The acquisition of the EAT estate is a wonderful opportunity to turbo charge the development of Veggie Pret and put significant resources behind it,” said Schlee.
“We want to make them really dynamic, green spaces with a lot more recipes and if that’s working well then we will look to expand further,” he added.
Brits spent over £1.3bn on vegan and vegetarian products in 2018. According to the Vegan Society, more than half of UK adults have adopted ‘vegan buying behavior,’ while the number of full-time vegans in the UK has grown fourfold in the past decade.
Conversely, overall spending on meat fell 2% to £8bn ($10bn) in the year to April, according to Nielsen.
Pret – which was bought for £1.5bn ($1.8bn) by Luxembourg-based investment company JAB Holdings in May last year – has more than 500 stores in nine countries. It opened the first Veggie outlet in 2016 in London and later expanded to three further locations in the UK.