Pret a Manger to give away hundreds of free lunches in Sheffield

Pret a Manger already has a shop at Meadowhall - replacing one that opened and closed there in the early 2000s - but Sheffield city centre has missed out until now
Pret a Manger already has a shop at Meadowhall - replacing one that opened and closed there in the early 2000s - but Sheffield city centre has missed out until now

The first branch of Pret a Manger in Sheffield city centre is giving away hundreds of free lunches on Wednesday - the day before the shop opens at Coles Corner.

General manager Maria Pak and her team of 20 staff are launching the outlet at 2 Fargate, formerly a branch of the HSBC bank, next Thursday, November 9.

But from midday on Wednesday, November 8, the shop is opening early to give people a look inside, with the first 400 customers through the doors entitled to a complimentary lunch.

The lunch will consist of a salad, sandwich, baguette or wrap, a dessert or snack, a cold drink and a barista-prepared hot drink.

The outlet will have seating for around 130 customers, free wi-fi and a filtered water tap where people can 'hydrate for free'.

Historically the site, at the corner of Church Street, was known as Coles Corner as it marked the spot of the old Cole Brothers department store, which moved to Barker's Pool in 1963 and later became John Lewis. The corner was a popular meeting spot, is commemorated with a plaque and inspired the name of an album by Sheffield singer-songwriter Richard Hawley.

Pret a Manger - which means 'ready to eat' - sells sandwiches, baguettes, soups, wraps and salads, as well as breakfast items, sushi and hot drinks. The chain has 486 outlets worldwide, and is now more commonly known as simply 'Pret'.

It is a fixture in other UK cities - Leeds and Manchester have five outlets each - but Sheffield city centre has missed out until now. Last year the firm opened a shop in Meadowhall, marking the chain's return to the shopping mall, where it briefly had a presence in the early 2000s.

Former restaurateur Neale Gibson, Labour councillor for Walkley and the council's food champion, previously applauded the firm's move to the middle of Sheffield as 'a sign the city is being taken seriously', reflecting a heightened level of confidence as regeneration projects gather pace.

College friends Julian Metcalfe and Sinclair Beecham founded the company in its present form in 1986 on Victoria Street in London. Today Pret sells 1.4 million coffees daily, and has diversified by launching vegetarian-only outlets.

The firm also gives unsold food to homeless charities at the end of each day, and the Fargate branch is on the lookout for local causes to support.

Pret's other Sheffield shop, at Meadowhall, donates to youth housing charity Roundabout.

Maria has worked for Pret for nine years, most recently leading the shop at Parliament Street, York.

“We are so excited to open the doors to Sheffield’s second Pret," she said. "Our fantastic new team are trained and ready, and we can’t wait to meet our new customers."

Free coffee was also being given away on Friday at a stall on Fargate.

Visit www.pret.co.uk/freelunch for details of Wednesday's event. Interested charities should email juanita.cracchiolo@pret.com to find out more.

The Fargate shop's opening hours will be 7.30am to 7pm, Monday to Saturday, and 8.30pm to 6pm on Sundays.