(Changes number for UK workforce in third paragraph of APRIL 27
story after clarification from company)
* 65 pct of UK staff are from other EU countries
* Firm "reaching out" to sources of British labour
* 2016 core earnings up 11 pct
* Targets 500 stores by end of 2017
By James Davey
LONDON, April 27 Coffee and sandwich chain Pret
A Manger wants to increase the number of Britons working in its
UK shops to cushion it from potential damage if European Union
workers stay away after Brexit, its boss said on Thursday.
The status of citizens from other EU countries living in
Britain has been clouded by last June's Brexit vote with the UK
government yet to guarantee their rights, saying it first needs
a reciprocal deal with the EU.
Of Pret's over 8,000 UK workforce, some 65 percent come from
EU countries other than Britain.
"We’ve been reaching out to British labour pools in a way
that we never had to before," Pret Chief Executive Clive Schlee
He said Pret, majority owned by private equity firm
Bridgepoint, was increasing its use of social media and links
with UK job centres in its recruitment strategy.
This summer the firm will launch its "Big Experience Week"
offering 500 week-long paid work experience placements to
British school students.
"We're very encouraged by the response...So we feel that we
will be able to maintain our diverse, our tolerant and our very
competitive culture, but with a higher British percentage over
time, said Schlee.
The chief executive also welcomed industry debate on the
idea of "barista visas" for EU nationals after Brexit - allowing
them to work in Britain but not be eligible for benefits.
Schlee was speaking after Pret, which is believed to be
looking at a stock market listing, reported an 11 percent rise
in 2016 core earnings.
Pret made core earnings of 93.2 million pounds ($120.2
million) as total sales rose 15 percent to 776.2 million pounds.
Sales at outlets open over a year increased 4.8 percent.
The outcome was a twelfth straight year of revenue and core
earnings growth. In the United States sales exceeded $200
million for the first time.
"So far 2017 has followed a very similar pattern to 2016, so
we haven't seen a slowdown yet," said Schlee.
On Tuesday Whitbread said underlying sales at its
Costa Coffee chain fell in its fourth quarter. The group also
said it was cautious about the 2017-18 financial year, saying it
expected a tougher consumer environment.
Reuters reported last month that Pret's private equity
owners had chosen Solebury Capital to advise on a planned New
York stock market listing..
Pret opened 50 new shops in 2016, taking the total to 444,
including 329 in the UK and it now also trades from France, Hong
Kong, China and Dubai. It expects to have 500 shops by the end
of 2017, including its first in Singapore.
($1 = 0.7754 pounds)
(Editing by Kate Holton/Keith Weir)