Itsu CEO Metcalfe, who hasn’t run Pret in more than a decade and sold his final stake in the business back in 2018, told the Daily Mail in an article published this morning (29 October): “Society will not recover if we do it again to save a few thousand lives of very old or vulnerable people.”
He added: "The young people of this country will be paying for this for the next 20 to 30 years. It's terrible what's happening. Just because France does this with its socialist government, doesn't mean we have to."
The implication that thousands of premature deaths were preferable to lockdown was immediately seized upon by Twitter users who called for a boycott of Pret, despite Metcalfe no longer being involved in the company.
One user wrote: “Pret another one to boycott, then. I liked the falafel wraps but that's kinda outweighed by my dislike of insensitive disregard for life to satiate the pockets of the wealth.”
As well as responding to users individually, Pret has issued a statement distancing itself from Metcalfe’s views.
A Pret spokesperson wrote: “We are aware of Julian Metcalfe’s comments this morning, but he has not run the business for over ten years and we do not agree with his opinion.
“We at Pret strongly believe we must take steps to stop the spread of the virus and tackle the new wave of infections.”
Some Twitter users have also called for a boycott of Itsu, in light of Metcalfe’s comments.
However, at the time of writing the grab-and-go sushi chain has not issued its own response.
Gail’s Bakery and All Star Lanes backer Luke Johnson was also quoted in the Daily Mail article, excoriating Government decision making over Coronavirus.
He said: “There is obsessive maniacal focus on Covid cases and deaths, but not on the collateral damage of lockdown – business are failing, unemployment and suicide are rising, and heart problems and other treatments not being dealt with.
“It is very easy for those on the public sector payroll, members of Sage, civil servants, politicians and local authority staff to arbitrarily commit to lockdowns, because they personally will never face the prospect of losing their job because of it.
“If you’ve grown a business over 20 years, put your life and soul and home on the line only to see your entire life’s work and all those destroyed, it’s a bleak experience. But that is the prospect facing an increasing number of entrepreneurs.
“It’s truly heart-breaking.”
Pret has become somewhat symbolic of the financial pain suffered by high-street operators as a result of the Coronavirus crises.
Earlier this month the sandwich chain announced it was to close a further six sites and cut around 400 more jobs, having already shuttered 30 of its branches and made 2,800 staff redundant as part of a major restructuring of the business.
Back in August the company said the impact of the Coronavirus has set sales back 10 years.