itsu and Pret: Food for Thought

6th March 2020

Julian Metcalfe OBE, the serial entrepreneur who founded itsu and Pret A Manger, spoke passionately about the importance of trust and empathy in businesses – and his search for the perfect rice pan – at a dinner for Profit Track 100 alumni in London last night.

The dinner was hosted by Giles Nicholas, managing director of UBS Wealth Management, together with Fast Track’s founder Hamish Stevenson.

Guests included Sir James Wates CBE, chairman of the construction contractor Wates; Paul Richardson, executive chairman of fitness clothing brand Gymshark; Suzanne Trippett, co-founder of AMG Nursing; and Dolores Collins, co-founder of Canterbury Travel.



Julian is the majority owner of Asian-inspired food brand itsu, which he set up in 1997 and has grown to 75 sites, with the rapidly-growing itsu grocery business contributing to sales of over £100m. itsu is now expanding into America and Europe.

He co-founded Pret A Manger in 1986 with a £17,500 loan. Pret was acquired by JAB Holdings for a reported £1.5bn in 2018. He told guests about building trust with customers and staff, and how “in this world we desperately need affordable, better nutrition.”


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Giles Nicholas, managing director of UBS Wealth Management, welcomed guests to the dinner. A no-handshake protocol was in place due to coronavirus, which he called “the challenge of the next six months.” He then spoke about ESG investment, which he described as “the challenge of the next decade,” adding: “is it just a fad? I don’t think so… if you are a company and you’re not seen to be ESG-compliant now, you are inherently a riskier business”


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