Bain Capital disagrees. In September, it acquired Bread Holdings, the parent company of Gail’s, in a deal that valued the firm at over £200m.
Sandro Patti, a director at the American private equity firm, hailed Gail’s ability “to supply high quality, fresh bakery products meals and drinks”, as well as its “strong brand following.”
In London, at least in the reasonably affluent areas, Gail’s has certainly attracted a loyal customer base.
Rosie, 24, is a regular visitor to her local branch in Hampstead, North London. “There’s always people chatting and it feels like the sort of place where friends could meet up, whereas I don’t think I’d meet a friend at Pret,” she says.
Like many office workers, Rosie is working from home for more than half of the week, and on those days she often chooses to go to Gail’s to work.
“Personally, I just wouldn’t do that at a Pret,” she says. “Pret serves a function, but with Gail’s I think it’s more of a pleasant experience.”
An argument often put forward by those advocating a return to the office is that it would help shops based in city centres.
But for Gail’s, the case is not so strong – many of its outlets are in residential areas. This proved an inspired choice during the pandemic, with people largely confined to their local neighbourhood and bakeries within walking distance.
Jonathan De Mello, a partner at CWM Retail Consulting, argues Pret may have gone too far in focusing on office-based locations and is now looking more carefully at “where people live, as well as where they work”. In September, it announced plans to open more than 200 UK shops over the next couple of years, with a focus on regional and suburban areas.