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November 4, 2012

Pret A Manger

by Anne Paddock

What do you get when you cross a good restaurant, a top quality grocer, a European style coffee bar, and the speed of light? Pret A Manger:  a British-based fresh food provider that makes healthy and delicious food as fast as it flies off the shelves.

Several years ago while traveling in London, we came upon a storefront that was completely filled with people at lunchtime so naturally we went in to see what all the fuss was about. maneuvering through the crowds of people selecting boxed and wrapped food – sandwiches, wraps, baguettes, salads, fresh-cut fruit, yogurt pots, and cakes – out of large open refrigerators that lined two walls, we realized we stumbled upon a new way to get good, wholesome food fast. As we approached one of the many counters lined with cashiers, there were also hot soups and hot sandwiches made to order along with cookies, bars, and other desserts. And as quick as people were making their choices, workers were re-stocking the shelves with freshly made goods.

Pret a Manger was first opened in London in 1986 by two college friends who made sandwiches “using natural, preservative-free ingredients believing that freshly prepared food is better for you and your taste buds. Every sandwich, salad and prepared food is made on site at every one of the 313 Pret locations: 250 in England, 47 in the United States (34 in New York City, 6 in Washington, DC, 7 in Chicago), 12 in Hong Kong,and 4 in France (of which 2 are in Paris) – with the company continuing on its planned expansion in the United States (they opened their first store in NYC in 2000 and have added stores every year) and other parts of the world.

532261_382615438464443_1619722339_nWhat sets Pret a Manger apart from other fast service restaurants is the quality and freshness of the food and to achieve this, they have a large kitchen in every location and local vendors to supply fresh quality ingredients that don’t contain the additives, preservatives, and artificial flavorings and colorings that plague so many foods.  Pret A Manger will be the first to tell you their ham is natural pale pink because it’s from Niman Ranch or Earthbound Farms (who never use antibiotics, hormones,or artificial colors), or that their pears are of natural coloring gained through the ripening process, or that their dried apricots are more brownish than orange because they don’t contain nitrates.

644670_428176463908340_409633415_nThe stores also serve organic milk, oatmeal, coffee, tea, chocolate, and popcorn. No bleached or bromated flour is used in their breads or desserts. The company’s signature bread is a mix of whole wheat, bulgur wheat, buckwheat, oats, rye, flax, and sunflower seeds. And, the menu is huge with 20 types of sandwiches, 10 different baguette sandwiches, 8 hot wraps, toasties (like a panini), or melts, 4 types of cold wraps, 8 kinds of salads, 16 different soups and a wide selection of yogurt pots, juices, desserts, muffins, pastries, and bagels.

532125_383713245021329_2026852839_nThis is the place for those who don’t want a big greasy cheeseburger, fried or processed food, or a sub with processed meats and yet want something fresh, tasty, filling, and healthy.For those who like their lunch hot and meaty, there is a selection of items including a barbecued pulled pork wrap that contains Niman Ranch Pulled Pork, barbecue sauce, red onion, NY Cheddar Cheese, and seasonings in a tortilla wrap or a Ham, Cheese, and Mustard Toastie that contains Niman Ranch Smoked Ham, NY Cheddar Cheese, and Mustard Mayo on Pret’s Bloomer Bread.

420637_510321725693813_1382726678_nThe secret to Pret’s success is fast service but they don’t sell fast food. Committed to their slogan of “Made Today, Gone Today,” Pret donates food daily to local charities who feed the hungry. Last year, the company donated more than 1.7 million products (nearly 5,000 products per day) to these charities so that the people who really need the natural food, get it.

So, next time your travels take you to New York City, Washington, DC, Chicago, Boston (opening this month) or even England, France, or Hong Kong, stop in at a Pret A Manger and give yourself a treat. My favorite:  the Cheddar, Avocado, with Spinach and Kale (with red peppers and tomatoes) on Pret’s bread: it’s delicious. But, my husband prefers one of the chicken sandwiches or the Slim Roasted Turkey and Cheddar Sandwich.

Pret A Manger – Ready to Eat

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