Monday, January 14th, 2013

Why Does Pret A Manger Think Americans Are Stupid?

The delightful Pret A Manger sandwich shops which have taken Manhattan by storm in the last decade—in the days when they were backed by McDonald's—began in London. When Pret first showed up here, they went a bit screwy: apparently there was just too much mayo for New Yorkers and they overextended themselves and had to close stores. But they recovered—with new financial partners—quite nicely, and are a happy addition to New York City's lunch options. And back home, in London, Pret is more omnipresent than Starbucks is in New York. Why, sometimes you can see three Prets from a roundabout!

And inside the Prets of London… uh, WE AMERICANS ARE BEING ROBBED????

1. They have a halloumi sandwich. This is amazing. If you are not familiar, halloumi is the world's best cheese, a weird sort of rubbery Crypriot concoction that is best pan-fried. If there was such a sandwich handy in New York City, I'd never eat anything else.

2. They have a "mature cheddar and pickle" sandwich which is DELIGHTFUL.

3. They have a CRAYFISH SANDWICH. Actually two different sandwiches with crayfish. I mean obviously this is a little gross, but can you imagine?

4. There is a falafel and yogurt sandwich!??? Yay.

5. The gravest insult of all, as you can see pictured above, is the NEW YORK BLOOMER.

Yes, there is an actual sandwich named for New York that cannot be purchased in New York. So not only is almost every Pret London sandwich far superior to that which you can get in America, including this one, they are basically just spitting on us behind our backs and under our noses.

Here we get "cheddar and tomato" and "chicken and bacon" and that inventive thing, the "ham and cheese," and over there, THEY GET EVERYTHING. This dim view of America is sad-making.

What's worse is we probably did it to ourselves. Likely we spurned their fine and interesting sandwich offerings. Then, in reasonable market response, they were dumbed down to the most common denominator. I blame the tourists. I'd like to blame the tourists. I bet it was us, though. Please, Pret: lots has changed in New York City in the last 12 years. Like, we almost built thirty feet of the Second Avenue subway since 2000! Things are changing! We have an artisanal mayonnaise store now! Try us again, we're better than you rightfully think we are.

79 Comments / Post A Comment

Zaiya is a good standby when you just want a sandwich. They're all like $4.50.

Megan@twitter (#44,868)

@Brooklyn Battery No, closed by the DOH last Friday. Avoid.

@Megan@twitter On 41st?

Megan@twitter (#44,868)

@Brooklyn Battery Yes. It probably will have a re-inspection and reopen soon, but I'd still steer clear from now on.

@Megan@twitter Wonder if they're still working on the fire damage.

Megan@twitter (#44,868)

@Brooklyn Battery Unfortunately, no. Check out the inspection report on the DOH site – improper food storage temps, roaches, etc.

blergh (#177,628)

@Megan@twitterWait. What!?!?! I ate at the Zaiya on 41st (Library Way? that one, not the one in Kinokuniya) very happily on Saturday. I was especially happy that the rice balls were not refrigerated (fuck you, DOH) and the rice was still slightly warm.

@Megan@twitter I was thrilled that the newest Pret A Manger opened right where I worked. They only opened last week, and I've already eaten there 3X! I'm a vegetarian who tries to eat healthy, and they have so many options I can chose from. I recognized some of the faces from the LaSalle street store, and everyone seems very friendly and helpful! The portions are just right for lunch and reasonably priced for the quality ingredients. I loved the Pret A Mangers in London, and now I can enjoy this unique concept as often as I want!

Smitros (#5,315)

Brits haz our crawdads.

C_Webb (#855)

@Smitros When there was no crawdad, we ate sand.

Aurora F (#214,618)

@C_Webb You ate sand?

Leon (#6,596)

I'm guessing by "available in NY" you forgot about Queens (I mean, I generally do on purpose too, so I get it).

There are like, a million good cypriot places in astoria (okay, like, 4 or 5, but that's a lot for such a tiny country) and they all have amazing halloumi sandwiches.

Queens. Who knew?

Grumble (#240,822)

@Leon Aroma (the Israeli coffee chain) has an okay halloumi sandwich (or used to anyway)… Satisfyingly squeaky.

boxes (#75,654)

Does New York have the brie, tomato, and basil baguette? Because that was one gratifying sandwich.

blergh (#177,628)

@boxes Sometimes, yes!

LondonLee (#922)

Pret is great and all but what I really miss is Marks & Spencer's Chicken Tikka sandwich.

And thank God we finally got a Wagamama over here.

jfruh (#713)

@LondonLee WAIT WHAAAAT WHERE? 10 years after our last trip to London, Wagamama is the thing my wife still talks about the most.

LondonLee (#922)

@jfruh By "here" I mean Boston. We have three (I think) of them.

BadUncle (#153)

@jfruh Yeah, I'll take Wagamama in heartbeat over the mayo-bombs that are Pret "sandwiches."

@BadUncle Okay, we need to drive up to Boston and steal one of their Wagamamas and bring it back to ny.

@LondonLee If you're in New York, Republic is pretty close to Wagamama.

Dr. Peter Venkman (#240,790)

@LondonLee You got my hopes up! Boston is *not* Seattle. I miss my friendly neighborhood Wagamama.

Smitros (#5,315)

@LondonLee Wagamama has been teasing in DC for two years with a site on 7th Street, NW that has yet to open.

stuffisthings (#1,352)

@LondonLee I went to Wagamama several times when I lived in England and I honestly have no memory of what it was like. What's so special about that place?

LondonLee (#922)

PS: My wife's theory for the lack of Pret's over here is that Americans associate pre-packaged sandwiches with 7-11 and nasty gas station food.

@LondonLee Pret's sandwiches are too salty.

BadUncle (#153)

@LondonLee Plenty of delis sell pre-made sandwiches.

David (#192)

@LondonLee Pret's relative lack-of-presence here in the USA is their apparent lack of good commercial-property-real-estate-advisory-and brokerage-services. Where else but in NYC (especially in their shops on Madison Avenue) do you have to suffer the indignity of having to eat a sandwich in-shop under an air blowing device so strong it will dry out your hair while preventing you from hearing in 10 seconds or less? And a Pret in Miami, Florida??– forgetaboutit.

I'd be happy if I could just get some hedgehog crisps.

City_Dater (#2,500)

I only got past this about six months ago and now you have me getting crabby all over again over the lack of cheese and pickle sandwiches in the NY Pret stores.

Bittersweet (#765)

@City_Dater [gherkins]

Morbo (#1,288)

$9 for a gussied up gas station sandwich.

Tuna Surprise (#573)

They're cheaper in England. Sandwiches range from about $3 to $5.

joeks (#5,805)

@Morbo Hell, the name "Pret a Manger" itself is a gussied up way of saying "We made this food a while ago and you can eat it, if you want."

Tuna Surprise (#573)

Pret's greatest contribution to sandwichdom is the mature cheddar and pickle (chutney) sandwich. Perfection.

spanglepants (#240,784)

@Tuna Surprise: Pret a flipping Manger didn't invent cheese and pickle sarnies! Maybe they brought them to the US, though. I dunno.

you're a kitty! (#240,787)

@Tuna Surprise ughhhh it's the best.

LondonLee (#922)

@spanglepants The cheddar and pickle sarnie is basically a Ploughman's Lunch in portable form.

spanglepants (#240,784)

@LondonLee Ooh, I haven't had a ploughman's in YEARS. Maybe decades.

Aaron Silverman (#7,452)

At the DC Pret they sell a "vietnamese baguette" that is pretty good.

areaderwrites (#592)

Egg and prawn is my "would never eat anything else" sandwich memory of eating in London. From Pret, from some other chain I don't remember, and even the ones from Boots were okay walking-around food. (This was in 1999, menus have changed since then I imagine.)

WaityKatie (#79,377)

@areaderwrites YES prawn everything! The first store in NYC to offer either prawn chips ("crisps," whatever) and/or prawn and mayo sandwiches will have me as a customer forever.

werewolfbarmitzvah (#16,402)

This post is the direct cause of me going across the street to Pret a Manger an hour ago, buying a cheddar and tomato sandwich, and eating it. Along with a strawberry lemonade (which is surprisingly outstanding!).

BadUncle (#153)

I used to eat at the London locales pretty regularly – but only because they were the most affordable option near my work. Except for the crawfish and the cheddar, most were aggregations of weird pasts and deli effluvient. I don't get their popularity, anywhere.

cherrispryte (#444)

The closest place to my office from where one may obtain food is a Pret, which, as someone who enjoys snobbery, being an anglophile, and paying too much money for food, I frequent the place often. I have frequently perused their "full menu" options on their website, ruing the lack of cheese and pickle sandwiches in the states.

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

Yeah, but which tourists would you blame? Not the Brits, right? The Americans! There is no nastier insult for us New Yorkers than to be treated like a bunch of Americans.

blergh (#177,628)

I complain, loudly, to people all the freaking time that Pret doesn't have the good sandwiches here. (Yes. I do have friends. Why do you ask?)

Also, I had a fabulous track record of getting free coffee from various Prets around NYC: not just the Pret I frequent most, but all over the city. I got a free sandwich (one of the breakfasty egg ones), too, a few months ago because they were trying to get rid of them. This hasn't happened recently, but that memory has kept me going back again and again. I'm a sucker.

@blergh I get a lot of free coffees there, too! I just assumed it was because they felt bad they were enabling my ham & cheese croissant addiction (supplemented by a "posh fruit cup" to make it a balanced-ish brekkie).

churlishgreen (#49,256)

US Pret also lacks good strong tea.

tambourine (#238,176)

my office had pret sandwich platters in for lunch today and i fully ate 3 of those falafel and yoghurt sandwiches. YUM.

stacytg (#240,454)

I live in London. There are good sandwiches here because there are lots of veggie options, and also like half of them you can get grilled on the spot; grilling makes everything like a million times better.

you're a kitty! (#240,787)

All I want is the porridge and berry compote. It's all I want from life.

Would love to have Pret a Manger here on the Left Coast, but don't know if it's the sort of thing Angelenos would go for. More of a food truck, kalbi burrito kind of place, IMHO. That said, the best I can say about Pret a Manger (in London) is that the food's relatively cheap and you don't need a reservation to eat. Other than that, the sandwiches all taste surprisingly similar.

hammitt (#238,240)

Weirdly strong feelings on Pret ahoy:

Difference between Pret and gas station/Starbucks sandwiches: they donate them to homeless shelters at the end of the day, so no, poster above who I'm not scrolling to find, they didn't make them all that long ago.

Difference between Pret "inventing" cheese and pickle and the central reality of why Prets are better in London: Brits are better at sandwiches.

I heard this theory a while ago, that sort of made sense, about why Pret didn't do well in the states. Essentially, it was that fast food, especially "high end fast food" has had a long term marketing love-affair with customization. At the low end that means Burger King's have it your way shennanigans. At the higher ends of chains, that means the fact that at something like a Cosi, the sandwich is made to order, so you can say things like "non of THAT nasty shit."

Pret is priced at the higher end, and apparently we Americans got, justifiably or not, really annoyed that we couldn't customize it. Essentially "If I am paying FIVE BUCKS for this, I want it how I WANT IT." Which makes sense and is very us.

The problem is that that means 'weirder' sandwiches (and I will never get over this prawn mayo shit. I don't care where it came from. M&S, Pret, whatever – isn't that just ASKING for food poisoning?) become less profitable. What if you don't like yogurt sauce? What if you like cheddar, but less chutney? By sticking to shit like ham and cheese, pret sidesteps these scruples in the US.

I feel like its true in other places, too. I remember my mom visiting me in the UK once and we were at a pub somewhere in the middle of nowhere and she asked if she could have some dish but with one thing instead of another, and the waiter laughed and said he'd have known we were Americans even without the accents, because Americans are always doing that. I feel like its becoming a lot more common here even since I first lived in the uk 7 years ago, but its WAY more of a given in the States.

Also, stop with the mayo-hating. Mayo bombs are delicious bombs.

Wow. I keep getting REALLY carried away on my comments lately. Forgive me.

evil betty (#240,813)

What, no 'knifecrime island' tag?!

dontannoyme (#24,319)

@evil betty. Also no kneejerk "British food is vile" post. What the hell is going on over there? Maybe my relentless whining on this topic has had an impact? It was really annoying me and you can see from my username that that is not permitted.

lizard (#240,819)

yes but you do realize there are restaurants all over that sell those sandwiches. find a foodtruck and you can have a cheap falafel sandwich

anderin (#240,827)

I miss their cranberry soda desperately! Loved Pret when I lived in London in 2005… and so disappointed by the Manhattan locations when I returned to New York.

Thank God for Wagamama here in Boston.

Dilworth (#525)

About the time Pret opened near my old office there was a long and surprisingly fascinating story about the company in the New Yorker. For a few months after I bugged the manager about the crayfish sandwich, which was 'in development'. It finally debuted and was AWESOME. I tried valiantly to keep them on the menu, but you can only eat so many sandwiches. As is often the case, the star that burns twice as bright, lasts half as long and crayfish can no longer be had in the big apple.

sueb8383 (#242,885)

Thank you!!! I first discovered Pret on a trip to London many years ago and was so happy to find them in the USA as well…except they're not the same, like you've said. The sandwiches have been dumbed down, and are quite frankly not as good as they used to be. This pains me to say as I LOVED this place before, now I like it.

Also, unless it was recently reintroduced, they did away with Chicken Coronation! The best freaking sandwich they had. WTH Pret. WTH.

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real (#248,984)

gantzstream Pret is great and all but what I really miss is Marks & Spencer's Chicken Tikka sandwich.

And thank God we finally got a Wagamama over here.

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