The distinct modern style, "heart and soul" ethics and chemical-free ingredients of the Pret a Manger chain will not change, promised the current management yesterday (31 January), in a bid to reassure their consumer contingent that fastfood giant McDonalds will not be insisting on a McPret approach following its purchase of a 33% share in the company.

It is somewhat ironic that the classy sandwich bars should come under the shadow of the golden arches. The 1986 brainchild of Julian Metcalfe and Sinclair Beecham; the chain originated in the leafy London suburb of Hampstead famous for its efforts to keep McDonalds out.

Furthermore, association with the Big Mac may not do much for the group's brand, which finely balances the expense of luxury for urban professionals with the affordability of lunchtime snacks. Even the Queen ranks within Pret's customer list, ordering over £1,000 worth of sandwiches to Buckingham Palace every week, a regal glamour McDonalds can certainly not boast of.

The undeniable advantage of the deal, aside from a cash injection £25m from Ronald, is that an   alliance with McDonalds will benefit the chain's global ambitions.

To date, Pret's transatlantic ventures in New York proved popular but lacking in the branding of a US heavyweight. With McDonald's muscle, problems such as sourcing sites, staff and equipments and establishing a food distribution network will be easily solved. Pret is also thought to be looking further afield to Hong Kong and Tokyo. As Metcalfe says: "We could have sold the shares for much more to other buyers, but they wouldn't have provided the support we need."

 In 1998, the upper-class sandwich idea had caught on in Britain and 65 outlets were not enough. Andrew Rolfe, a former PepsiCo executive, was hired as CEO and Beecham focused on international expansion.

"[This is] a terrific deal for Pret," added Rolfe.

Market watchers are waiting with anticipation for a little fisticuffs over control however. Not only are employment and production practises remarkably different but also the environmental outlook. McDonalds provide a stark contrast to Pret in the light of its berating by green groups.

Furthermore the future of the relationship between the companies is a little confused. A McDonald's spokesman commented confidently: "We have an option to increase our investment and to fully acquire them over time." Not quite in line with Metcalfe and Beecham's plans: "We'll still be in charge [and] we'll have the majority of the shares. Pret will continue what it does and McDonalds will continue what it does."

Metcalf added: "People may have differences with McDonald's about their supply of food but those issues don't apply to Pret." The Pret McSandwich, it seems, is still a long way off.