Pret A Manger revealed plans to open another 44 stores this year, after new shop openings in 2011 helped boost its profits by 14%.

In its annual results, the sandwich chain announced profits were just over £52m, with sales up 15%, last year, to £377.3m.

The move to open new stores would create around 550 jobs. However, the firm said 20 of the planned new stores would be overseas.

Talking on BBC Breakfast this morning (3 April), Clive Schlee, chief executive, said growth over the past year was down in part to new store openings.

The firm opened two stores in Paris, under the Pret name, earlier this year, which have been performing well, and the chain also plans to open a shop in a fourth US city – Boston.

He added that the proposed hot food tax would not affect Pret, as it already pays VAT on its soups and toasted sandwiches etc.