Duff Cooper, the British Ambassador to Paris, wrote a brief entry in his diary on 17th March, 1948: “I went to the Royal Empire Society at one o’clock, where I had an unpleasant experience called ‘a sandwich lunch’ which lasted only half an hour.”
Seventy odd years later, we all know the sandwich has become a national dish in Britain, but how have attitudes to fast food in France developed? Pret A Manger’s experience in Paris is a good way to find out, and in my first blog, I’d like to describe how the British and the French are eating at Pret day-to-day. Admittedly, Pret has more experience of British habits after almost thirty years in London, but we now have eleven busy shops in Paris, and we are starting to learn the rules there too.
Let’s start with breakfast. Unlike many Londoners, Parisians prefer a quick breakfast at home before they leave for work. The idea of breakfast as a feel-good fuel stop between the commute and the office is not yet ingrained. What is more, such Pret breakfast as there is in Paris is dominated by plain croissants and espressos. The Parisians scarcely eat anything else. We are trying to encourage them to enjoy the delicious porridge that sells in vast quantities at home but it’s a struggle. Pret’s bananas in London outsell Paris six to one at breakfast time.