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Pret A Manger, the UK sandwich-shop chain, today [Wednesday] launched its first outlet in Japan, its third international market.

The first Japanese outlet was opened in Hibiya City, Tokyo. The company’s initial expansion plans for Japan focus on Tokyo’s business districts, aiming to open five shops by the end of the year and a further 80 by the end of 2004.

The shops will be consistent with existing Pret A Manger outlets, creating innovative food made from natural ingredients and served quickly in an energetic and contemporary environment that targets the lunchtime market, the company said.

Japan can look forward to a menu filled with Pret staples such as the Crayfish & Roquette and the All Day Breakfast. In addition, Pret’s food team has developed new recipes specifically geared to local tastes. Miso Pork Wrap and Pret Bean Sandwich (a combination of kidney, soya and garbanzo beans, tomato and roquette, in between two slices of sesame bread) are two of the Japanese specials, making up about 20% of Pret A Manger’s full range.

Pret A Manger operates over 120 shops in the UK, 13 in New York and five in Hong Kong, employing more than 2,400 people. In January 2001 US fastfood giant McDonald’s bought a 33% stake in the company. This assists in funding international expansion and has enabled Pret A Manger to access the existing global infrastructure of McDonald’s in property and construction, Pret said in a statement to the press.