Pret a Manger to cut staff pay and hours as customers stay away

Pret a Manger is to cut staff working hours and pay by a quarter across

Pret a Manger is to cut staff working hours and pay by a quarter across its 550 branches as customers follow government advice to stay at home to dampen the spread of coronavirus.

The London-based coffee shop chain has emailed staff, most of whom earn the minimum wage or slightly more, telling them the reduction in hours will be implemented from the end of next week until 1 April across its network on a case by case basis. At this time the focus is mostly on the UK, where Pret has 400 shops.

The company’s 12,000 staff were told it was triggering contractual clauses relating to “unforeseen, exceptional circumstances”, and that the measures would remain in place for at least three months. The company, which said it might cut hours further as the situation worsened, said the move was aimed at avoiding job cuts.

“Like many high street businesses, we’ve had to make temporary changes to our opening times and shop operations to reflect the significant changes in demand,” said a Pret spokesman. “However, no Pret team member is losing their job and we’re supporting all our teams through this crisis. As soon as the situation changes, or if the government announces further assistance, we will reverse these changes immediately.”

On Wednesday, Pret shut all of its in-store eating areas and moved to takeaway-only operations for the foreseeable future. Reusable cups have been banned because of fears they could spread the virus; and NHS workers are being offered free hot drinks and a 50% discount on all other purchases.

The Suffolk-based brewery Adnams is also closing many of its hotels and pubs but will continue to brew its beers for sale online and through supermarkets. Adnams has more than 40 pubs, inns and hotels.

The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, this week unveiled a 12-month business rates holiday for retailers, leisure and hospitality businesses as part of his £350bn emergency bailout package. Business rates are one of the biggest fixed costs for retailers. Sainsbury’s has said the emergency measures will save it £500m.

The virus continues to hammer the high street with new figures showing that sales at pubs, bars and restaurants slumped by 15% in the week before Boris Johnson told the public to stop going out.

Sales in restaurants plunged by 21%, those in managed pubs fell 12%, while bar sales fell 14%.

Phil Tate, the chief executive of CGA, the consultancy that produces the Coffee Peach business tracker of hospitality sales, said: “We can only expect the figures to worsen this week.”