British coffee and sandwich chain Pret a Manger on Wednesday announced plans to expand over the next two years, opening 200 outlets in the UK and launching in five new markets.
Pret, which was forced to close shops and cut thousands of jobs as office workers deserted city centres during coronavirus lockdown, said its recovery in the UK was now approaching pre-pandemic levels.
Following an investment of £185 million ($252 million, 215 million euros) to support Pret through Covid, the chain said its founder Sinclair Beecham and German owner JAB Holdings had made a further £100 million net investment to accelerate the expansion.
"Last year we were in the eye of the storm during the height of the pandemic. Now we have the chance to build a bright new future for Pret," the chain's chief executive Pano Christou said.
"Last year, we delivered more change than in 30 years of Pret's history. As we move into the next phase of our transformation, we want to keep the same pace of innovation, but use it drive new growth," he added.
In the face of business lost in the pandemic -- with 2020 revenue down 58 percent on 2019 to £299 million -- Pret moved away from its model which heavily targeted urban centres to offering takeaway and retail ranges.
Many of the 200 new shops due to open by 2023 will focus on regional and suburban areas, transport hubs and motorways, including some 100 franchised outlets.
The chain has said its existing regional shops are performing at their "strongest ever levels" with outlets in the centre of London recovering to over 72 percent of pre-pandemic weekly sales.
Pret, which runs around 550 shops across five markets in the UK, the United States, France, Dubai and Hong Kong, said it plans to expand in a further five markets in Europe and Asia.