While he doesn’t like to brag about it, the world-famous brand of Pret A Manger was founded by Jeffrey Hyman in 1983.
Hyman is, of course, the chairman and founder of the Food & Drink Innovation Network. But back in 1983, together with a group of stakeholders from the ad agency and showbiz world, he opened the first Pret A Manger in Hampstead, North West London.
The now famous name Pret A Manger, which means ready-to-eat, was coined by Hyman’s sister Valerie, a fashion Guru, who morphed the title from Pret A Porter, meaning ready to wear.
The outlet focused on an intriguing gourmet + ready-to-eat positioning which was inspired by the Traiteurs of Paris combined with the upscale steel and chrome sandwich bars of New York City. The fusion of sophistication + convenience was unique at the time.
The ‘flag-ship’ store, located strategically opposite Hampstead Underground station, had its own kitchen and offered ready-to-eat French classics such as Boeuf Bourguignon, Coq Au Vin, freshly cooked vegetables, an array of salads and regional cheeses, as well as filled baguettes, pastries, and the sandwiches which characterise the Prets of today. Most of the products were taken away, but there was a small cafe area for customers to eat and drink in the store.
The advertising agency was Horner Collis & Kirvan founded by three partners who had recently left Kirkwood’s. The opening campaign used poster sites, the London underground, local press and door-to-door leafleting.
Continual product and service innovation mean that the offering has changed but like all good brands the graphic device created in the 80’s by Kirkwood’s Art Director Mike Earl, has endured. The hand drawn art-deco typeface, maroon and white house colours and the sophisticated but convenient look and feel have even more relevance now than they had in the 80’s.
We badgered Jeffrey to talk a little about the brand he started. “I’m tremendously proud to have founded Pret A Manger, and its honestly been wonderful to see it grow into the ubiquitous brand it is today. As I travel around London I’m constantly reminded of our early days in Hampstead that were a challenge, but really wonderful too.”
In the last 30 years Julian Metcalfe and Sinclair Beecham, who bought this store plus the brand, have developed Pret nationally and internationally into the business it is today.