An artisan bakery named Bread A Manger is facing financial ruin after being ordered to change its name by its £1.5bn ‘rival’ – Pret A Manger.
The small business was set up during the Covid lockdown in Bermondsey, south-east London, by bakers Fouad Saber and Bertrand Kerleo – after both their previous companies were decimated by the pandemic.
But after almost two years of operating, the pair were left ‘shocked’ last month when they were told they had just nine days to stop using the business’s name, logo and promotional material – and to hand over its website.
Pret A Manger, which has more than 450 UK outlets, sent a legal letter to the bakery, situated on Market Place, on February 22.
The orders came from top international patent and trademark law firm Dehns, which has seven offices in the UK and one in Norway.
The company has now said Bread A Manger can have longer to make the changes they deem are necessary, adding that it merely wanted a response by March 3.
Bread A Manger was set up during the Covid lockdown in Bermondsey, south-east London, by bakers Fouad Saber and Bertrand Kerleo (pictured) – after both their previous companies were decimated by the pandemic
The letter came as a shock to cofounder Mr Saber, who says the company simply does not have the estimated £8,000 it would cost to make the requested changes. (Pictured: Front of Bread A Manger on Market Place, Bermondsey, south-east London)
Pret A Manger, which has more than 450 UK outlets, sent a legal letter to the bakery, situated on Market Place, on February 22. (Stock photo)
The letter came as a shock to cofounder Mr Saber, who says the company simply does not have the estimated £8,000 it would cost to make the requested changes.
He said: ‘At the beginning, I thought it was a scam or a wind-up.
‘But then I checked the name of the law company and realised it was serious.
‘It has been very stressful. We don’t really know what to do. We are a small business trying to survive. We opened at the start of lockdown because we loved what we do.
‘But one of our customers, a judge, gave us the name of a lawyer who could help us – but being given a week to change our name is not enough.
‘We are a French artisan baker and they are a fast food outlet. We do birthday cakes. There can be no confusion.
‘It would cost us £8,000 to change our name and our logo and marketing material – we don’t have that kind of money.
‘But our supporters have been very helpful. They have led the way in trying to save us.
‘We are just trying to stay positive because we did not do anything wrong.
‘We will do all we can.’ I come from Lyon, which was the center of the French Resistance, so we will fight on.’
Pret has confirmed the timeframe it asked for, for making initial changes was March 10.
It said it has not asked for other changes, including registering a new name with Companies House, until later in March.
It has also been offered to support in other ways so the firm can make the changes.
‘We have a duty of care to ensure the brand is not diluted,’ it said in a statement.
After almost two years of operating, the Bread A Manger founders were left ‘shocked’ last month when they were told they had just nine days to stop using the business’s name, logo and promotional material – and to hand over its website. (Pictured: Interior of Bread A Manger)
Jo Holinska, Head of Operations, London City, Pret a Manger, said: ‘Thousands of Pret Team Members across London have worked hard to earn the trust of customers in the city over the past four decades, and although we appreciate it when other businesses take inspiration from what we do, this name is just too close, especially when many of the products are similar too.
‘We’re more than happy to give the business the time it needs to make these changes and to provide any support we can, and we’ll be getting in touch again to see if we can resolve this in a fair and amicable way. ‘
Bread A Manger came about with the merger of two companies which could not survive the pandemic: Manger Moi and Dynamic Baking Classes.
The former was created in 2017 by Mr Saber, who is also a former shop, restaurant and customer services manager.
It specialized in pastries, muffins, and French crepes, in Stratford.
Dynamic Baking Classes, created by Mr Kerleo in 2019, was a specialist bakery selling French and English traditional food.
Mr Kerleo has more than 25 years’ experience as a head baker, previously working in a Michelin star restaurant, hotels and other bakeries.
He has also worked with top chefs including Tom Atkins and Eric Chavot.
It comes after Pret A Manger last month warned that fewer workers returning to the office and a shift to hybrid working mean it could come under significant financial pressure.
The coffee shop chain said there were ‘uncertainties’ that may cast ‘significant doubt’ over its ability to continue trading in accounts filed earlier this month.
Pret said there were ‘uncertainties’ that may cast ‘significant doubt’ over its ability to continue trading in accounts filed earlier this month (stock image used)
Among these was the ‘unpredictability of consumer behaviour’ as well as the possibility of new pandemic restrictions and the ability to keep paying its debts.
Pret, which has nearly 470 branches, relies heavily on office workers and commuters.
Covid forced many of its shops to close for several months, leaving it hemorrhaging cash – it plunged to a £296million loss in 2020, compared with a £1.9million profit in 2019.
The bleak assessment came as Pret doubled the size of an emergency cash reserve to £200million in January, after an injection of £106million in November and £185million 12 months ago.
The group recently raised the price of its coffee subscription service, which offers up to five barista-made drinks per day, to £25 per month from £20.
Remaining optimism, Pano Christou, CEO, Pret A Manger said last month: ‘In September last year, we announced ambitious plans to double the size of Pret’s business over the next five years, backed by a £100m injection of funding from JAB and Pret co-founder, Sinclair Beecham.
‘Since announcing this strategy, Pret has continued to expand its business in the UK and internationally, and we’re confident that we will continue this pace of growth in the coming years.
‘Despite the impact of Omicron on trade in December, our UK shops continue to recover strongly, with our Coffee Subscription used over a million times every week in the UK.’