Pret, already the most committedly meat-reducing of the sandwich chains, is going a step further with the opening of its third veggie outlet in London – and the first purpose-built for meat free eaters.
The new restaurant opens to the public today in Exmouth Market, Clerkenwell, a semi-pedestrianised haven for foodies north of the City. The company already has two other Veggie Prets in the capital, though those were simply given a lick of green paint and converted from existing restaurants.
Pret began rustling up its greener approach to food on the go two years ago, after the company’s chief executive Clive Schlee noticed that customers increasingly aware of the health and environmental impact of their diets were snapping up the meat free food on offer. More than 10,000 responded to a survey of whether they wanted to see a veggie-only outlet or a dedicated veggie fridge in every store. Schlee’s latest blog asks customers for their thoughts on Pret no longer stocking single-use plastic water bottles; all the Veggie Prets will sell reusable bottles for free refills, so watch this space.
Last June the company converted one of its shops in Soho into a pop-up Veggie Pret, and was so popular that it became a permanent fixture that autumn. It opened its second Veggie Pret on Great Eastern Street, Shoreditch, in April. Hopes are high that many more of the green-themed eateries will spring up around the country.
A new menu has been launched in honour of today’s grand opening of the Exmouth Market store, and will be available at all three Veggie Prets, with meals including Beans and Avocado Power Pot (£2.99) and Sweet Potato, Coconut and Cashew Flat Bread (£3.75) – both vegan – and Mushroom Florentine Toasted Tortilla (£3.99) and Halloumi, Red Pepper & Basil Toastie (£3.99).
And meanwhile, to show it isn’t just food outlets on this side of the pond fighting the good fight, the American burger chain Bareburger has announced it will soon open a vegan branch. At a food service conference recently, the New York-based company’s culinary director, Jonathan Lemon, said the “concept” restaurant would be opening its doors sometime this year.
It’s a sign of the growing impact meat free eating is having on global plates and palates, with more and more of us choosing to eat less meat or none at all, for the sake of the planet, our own welfare or that of animals. In the US, recent research found that 70 per cent of people are now swapping meat for a non-meat protein at least once a week, with 22 per cent saying they were more likely to do so than last year.
“The future is here and meat will play a smaller role in the years to come,” Lemon said. With so many people changing the way they eat for the better, he added that “Bareburger is committed to not getting left behind”. The company already offers a meat free if gimmicky Impossible Burger, which “bleeds” when cut into. There were suggestions that alongside typical meat alternatives, the restaurant intends to serve customers lab-grown meat.
Read Clive Schlee’s blog on single-used water bottles and tweet him @cliveschlee