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The Pret Index: How sandwich sales can tell us more about changing work habits in Europe

Each lunchtime, floods of these workers head out in search of sustenance, including to Pret A Manger.
Each lunchtime, floods of these workers head out in search of sustenance, including to Pret A Manger.   -   Copyright  Canva   -  

By Kirstie McDermott

Before March 2020, vast numbers of workers commuted into city centres every weekday, heading to their jobs in finance, professional services and tech.

There are around 550,000 workers in the finance-dominated City of London alone – or within the famous “Square Mile” – which equates to one in every 56 workers in Great Britain.

Similarly, in the business district of Paris La Défense, 180,000 employees work in around 500 companies in an area that spans more than 560 hectares, with 3.84 million sq.m. of office and coworking space.

Each lunchtime, floods of these workers head out in search of sustenance, and many of them end up at a Pret A Manger sandwich shop for a hummus salad wrap or cracking egg salad.

The Pret Index

Founded in the UK in 1983, Pret is now an international franchise chain with locations all over the world. Many of its stores are, notably, located in financial and business districts thanks to its “follow the skyscraper” business model.

That fact has come in rather handy as the pandemic has begun to ease, and the Pret Index was created by Bloomberg specifically because the chain is synonymous with the office lunch hour.

It began by tracking Pret’s weekly transactions against pre-pandemic levels, and it has come up with some interesting findings.

Up to July 14, London City and Canary Wharf were at 83 per cent of their pre-COVID-19 transactions, down from a peak of 89 per cent in May.

This tallies with data from TFL, which revealed in February that since working from home restrictions were lifted on January 19, the number of people using the Tube during weekdays has increased by at least 25 per cent.

Additionally, TFL said in February that ridership was regularly around 60 per cent of pre-pandemic levels during the week.

Stations close to financial institutions such as Canary Wharf, Mansion House and Aldgate were also seeing double the ridership numbers between 8 am and 9 am than those noted when restrictions were in place.

People are travelling more

At the city’s airport locations, sales are soaring too, which is a measure of both tourism and business travel.

Levels across Luton, Heathrow, Gatwick and City airports are 140 per cent above pre-pandemic levels, in a trend that Pret says has surprised it the most.

Sales are also up at locations in train stations, which surpassed pre-pandemic levels for the first time this April, and as of July were standing at 101 per cent of pre-Covid levels.

In Paris, where sales from over 30 stores were tracked, business climbed back to near-normal levels through the spring and summer of 2021, with the exception of August. However, this is when residents spend less time in the city.

This year, the chain noted that transactions have been steadily climbing and by mid-July of 2022, were hovering at around 81 per cent of the pre-pandemic base, or very close to normal.

Less remote working in France

While most European nations, notably those with higher GDPs have enthusiastically embraced remote and hybrid work, France hasn’t to the same extent.

A study for the French think tank Fondation Jean-Jaurès from January 2022 found that only 29 per cent of French workers say they work remotely “at least once a week”.

Compare that to 51 per cent of Germans, or 42 per cent of workers in the UK, and it is a marked difference. In Spain, the figure is 36 per cent, and in Italy, it is up to 50 per cent of workers.

And those French workers who are working remotely are doing it less than their European neighbours too. In Italy, 30 per cent of workers said they worked remotely for four to five days a week, and 17 per cent said they worked remotely for two to three days.

However, in France, those figures are 11 per cent and 14 per cent, respectively. Which is a lot of time spent in offices – and heading out for a lunchtime sandwich.

The upshot is that in both Paris and London - if Pret’s transactions are anything to go by-both cities’ workplace economies are in recovery.

That is also positive for anyone looking to move jobs or accelerate their career over the next few weeks or months.

If that’s you, we’re taking a look at three companies which are currently hiring below, and there are plenty more to discover on Euronews.jobs.

Talent Acquisition Specialist (m/f/d), Flink

Flink is an online supermarket that is revolutionising the way you shop for groceries. Founded by seasoned e-commerce professionals and backed by some of the most reputable investors in Europe, it is growing fast and hiring a Talent Acquisition Specialist in Berlin to identify and inspire new talent.

You will control and be responsible for the entire recruiting process for a specified region, and will proactively advise your internal contacts on all business-relevant recruiting processes. You should have some initial recruiting experience or experience in the areas of human resources management or customer service.

You’ll need to speak fluent German and have good knowledge of English too. The role will be located in a newly-renovated, spacious and dog-friendly HQ in the heart of Berlin Mitte. Find out more here.

Digital Strategy Project Leader/Principal (DigitalBCG), Boston Consulting Group

Boston Consulting Group partners with leaders in business and society to tackle their most important challenges and capture their greatest opportunities.

It works closely with clients to embrace a transformational approach aimed at benefiting all stakeholders, empowering organisations to grow, build sustainable competitive advantage, and drive positive societal impact.

In the Amsterdam-based Digital Strategy Project Leader/Principal (DigitalBCG) role, you’ll use your expertise and generalist consulting skills to help CEOs and their teams solve their most pressing challenges, and think about how digital and technology will change the shape of their business.

You will need eight or more years of consulting experience, including leading consulting teams or you’ll have held a leadership role in the industry, combined with five or more years of consulting experience. Get the full job spec here.

Senior Growth Manager (Contract), Airbnb

Airbnb is a mission-driven company dedicated to helping create a world where anyone can belong anywhere. Luckey by Airbnb is a leading host management marketplace and is looking for a Network Growth Manager to ensure the expansion of the Luckey partners network in France and Spain.

You will report to the growth and business operations manager. This position is based in Paris, with the possibility of remote working. You’ll analyse and support the local partner's network development to meet its ambitious objectives.

You will need eight years of previous experience in a sales-driven marketplace environment, good organisational skills, and the ability to multitask. Find out more here.

If you’re interested in a new role this year, check out Euronews.jobs, set up alerts and bookmark the link for regular check-ins

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