Pret A Manger to create 550 jobs

Sandwich chain Pret A Manger is to create 550 jobs in the UK as it steps up its expansion plans after a year of record sales and store openings.

The chain, which opened in London in 1986 and has 286 shops mainly in the UK, said sales rose 15% to £377.3 million in the year to December 29 while underlying profits were up 14% to £52.4 million, boosted by opening 24 stores.

The firm, which employs nearly 5,000 people in the UK and gives its leftover food to the homeless, has pledged to open 24 more sites in the UK in 2012 and 20 overseas, including its first in Boston in the United States.

It is planning a drive to attract more school leavers to the business and said it will also expand its apprenticeship scheme for the homeless.

Chief executive Clive Schlee said: "2011 was a year of strong revenue and profit growth during which we built a record number of new stores in the UK and internationally.

"Pret plans to expand the Pret apprenticeship scheme for the homeless and increase the number of apprentices to 70 this year.

"The scheme offers an opportunity to break the cycle of homelessness by providing the most valuable gift of all - a paid job in a lively social environment."

Pret said it gave away 2.4 million sandwiches and salads in 2011.

The group, which is mainly owned by private equity firm Bridgepoint, has opened two stores in Paris this year.

Mr Schlee said Parisians eat fewer crisps than people in the UK but are fond of puddings, cakes and cookies. He plans to open two more shops in the French capital in coming months.