Bunhill: Burger's a dog in the manger

SOME entrepreneurs never stop selling. They can't switch off. They have to harangue you with the merits of their products. Roy Bishko of Tie Rack is the ultimate example of the breed, forever peddling the virtues of his ties. The evangelical fervour can be a bit wearing, but it is undeniably persuasive.

Julian Metcalfe, who I met last week at one of his growing string of sandwich bars, Pret A Manger, is another Bishkovite. He insists on my admiring everything - the bagettes, imported from Lille; the chicken, from corn-fed birds; the eggs, free-range only; the Danish pastries, Egon Ronay approved, and so on.

He is fanatical about quality and dismissive of the 'bullshit food' served by McDonald's and Burger King. The tragedy, he says, is that 'the ingredients cost of a delicious meal and a disgusting one are about the same.' Yet the British, if they want food fast, have little choice but the burger chains.

Metcalfe, 33, and his business partner Sinclair Beecham, 34, set up their first Pret A Manger in 1986 in Victoria, London, at a cost of pounds 17,000. They now have 18 in central London and are opening new cafes at the rate of one or two a month. Several copycats, seeing their popularity, have tried to emulate the distinctive metallic decor.

Office workers flock in at lunchtime, attracted by the quick service and the good grub. The prices aren't cheap, compared with those at traditional sandwich bars, but a meal works out no more expensive than a trip to McDonald's. Turnover reached pounds 8m and pre- tax profits pounds 500,000 last year, and the group is on target to double that in the current year.

Metcalfe, an Old Harrovian and former chartered surveyor, cut his entrepreneurial teeth with two off-licences and a supermarket in his 20s. He believes there is massive scope to expand Pret. He thinks there is room in the UK for 200 Prets and next month opens his first cafe outside London - his largest so far and licensed to boot - in the Queensmere shopping centre in Slough. Others will open at the Tower of London, the Lloyd's insurance market and Selfridges. But Metcalfe has turned down an invitation to open an outlet at the Folkestone terminal of the Channel tunnel.

Pret is now starting to franchise the format, so expansion could easily accelerate. The workforce is incredibly young. The operations manager, who oversees the day-to-day operations, is 21.

The sandwich business has wonderful attractions. You get cash from your customers a full month before you have to pay your suppliers. And if you get it right, the cash floods in. The Oxford Street store takes up to pounds 30,000 a week.

Metcalfe has no great philosophy about what makes entrepreneurial success, beyond hard work, attention to detail and sheer doggedness. 'It's like a racehorse. At the end of the day it's the last fraction of 1 per cent that sorts out the winners and losers.'

BUNHILL'S Law of Excessive Salaries goes like this: anyone who earns more than me is on one. It's a pretty universal law. Even Lord Weinstock, the managing director of GEC, subscribes to it, judging by his heroic performance on Radio 4's Today programme last week to comment on boardroom greed. People earning several hundred thousand pounds a year were merely 'adequately paid', opined Arnie, who by a strange coincidence is paid pounds 600,000 a year. However, he then tut-tutted: 'When salaries start approaching seven figures or higher, it's a bit more doubtful whether it's entirely proper.' QED.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
From Mean Girls to Mamet: Lindsay Lohan
theatre
Sport
Nathaniel Clyne (No 2) drives home his side's second goal past Arsenal’s David Ospina at the Emirates
footballArsenal 1 Southampton 2: Arsène Wenger pays the price for picking reserve side in Capital One Cup
News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
i100
Travel
travelGallery And yes, it is indoors
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
The Tiger Who Came To Tea
booksJudith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

IT Project manager - Web E-commerce

£65000 Per Annum Benefits + bonus: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: If you are...

Trainee / Experienced Recruitment Consultants

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Soho

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40000: SThree: As a Recruitment Consultant, y...

Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Day In a Page

Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world