Tycoon behind Pret A Manger plans an IPO of his latest health food chain

Julian Metcalfe, a co-founder of popular coffee and sandwich chain Pret A Manger, will seek a stock market listing to fund 1,000 new U.S. stores of his Itsu chain.

The tycoon, who was reported by The Sunday Times to have made a £215 million ($280 million) fortune from the sale of Pret, told MarketWatch…

“We will float Itsu, as we have to, for it to grow to 1,000 stores over the next few years.”

There are already 75 European outlets of the low-cost and low-calorie chain that sells hot and cold Japanese and Korean food for customers to either eat in or take away.

It was started 15 years ago by Metcalfe, who has a 54% stake in the business – other investors include Luxembourg-based Ambrosia Investments.

The first American Itsu is already open in New York and construction for a second, on Wall Street, will start in the summer.

Metcalfe said: “Forget Pret, this is the next big thing. When you travel in Japan, food is so nutritious it’s glorious. They are so far ahead, I’ve always been inspired with what they eat.”

“We have a 45% profit margin, so it has fast-food margins, which is rare,” he said. “But 1,000 stores is not going to happen without a partner.”

The group’s most recent financial accounts, for 2018, show it lost £5.49 million on revenue of £116.58 million. Its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization jumped 60% to £4.1 million, on revenue growth, more profits from its grocery business and improved cost discipline, the company said. Like-for-like sales improved 3.6%.

Metcalfe is in talks with franchise partners and is open to…

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