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    Brussels Pret A Manger safe from company closures

    Credit: Terence Ong

    Brussels branches of British Sandwich chain Pret A Manger will not be impacted by the company’s decision to close certain shops to make up for losses during the coronavirus.

    While the high street chain announced on Tuesday that it would have to close 30 outlets in the UK, The Brussels Times has learned that there is no such plan to close the two stores that opened in Brussels in 2019.

    The company had said the impact of coronavirus on trading meant it had to make a “difficult decision” to “reflect lower footfall, rental costs and new safety measures.”

    About 330 jobs will be lost with the closure of the 30 shops, the BBC reports, adding that total job losses are expected to be over 1,000. The company made its name on high streets, offering a quick lunch for working crowds, something which was hit hard by the coronavirus.

    In Belgium, a partnership with Belgium’s national railway company, SNCB/NMBS, and SSP, which operates food and beverage outlets in airports and stations, saw two locations open at Brussels Midi Station and Brussels Central Station. Currently one has reopened already, but the reopening of the second is understood to be imminent.

    Sam’s old Cafe

    Sam's Cafe

    The opening of the Midi store, in particular, drew headlines after the announcement that Sam the Horse-Zebra would be allowed to remain in front of Pret a Manger shop, which had taken over the premises of Sam’s Cafe.

    Initially reports that the statue would be removed drew uproar from those opposed to the eviction of the elegant equine. To many, Sam was an important meeting place in a difficult to navigate station, a Brussels landmark, or a welcome sight in his position opposite the Eurostar terminal.

    “It’s basically the equivalent of Le Pain Quotidien setting up in Paddington Station and taking the statue of Paddington Bear down because it doesn’t fit their corporate image. It’s an outrage,” said Alan Beattie, a Brussels based writer, to local media.

    The Midi mascot proved so popular that a petition against his removal eventually gathered more than 1,000 signatures, and swayed Pret towards letting him stay.

    “We’ve listened to feedback, and I’m really pleased to announce that Sam the Horse-Zebra will join the Pret team at Gare du Midi station, helping to welcome new customers to the shop,” said Michael Haley, Partnerships Managing Director at Pret to local media.

    Jules Johnston
    The Brussels Times