Guy Meakin, Interim Managing Director, Pret A Manger UK and Ireland, outlines how the freshly made food and organic coffee chain transformed its business in the wake of the pandemic
Guy Meakin, Interim Managing Director, Pret A Manger UK and Ireland | Photo credit: Pret A Manger
Few UK hospitality businesses will forget March 2020. That month, the entire country entered its first Covid lockdown, and like operators across the industry Pret A Manger had to temporarily close all its shops.
In April 2020, I visited some of our central London stores and it became clear that the trading environment had changed markedly, with far fewer workers in offices, commuter hubs and city centre locations.
It was an incredibly tough time for Pret and everyone in the hospitality industry, but it also provided an opportunity for us to transform our business model and bring forward our digital capabilities.
Freshly made food, organic coffee and great service have always been, and always will be, at the heart of everything we do. So, when customers could no longer come to Pret to enjoy their favourite menu items, we invested in ways that we could bring Pret to them, reaching new and existing customers whether they were at home, in workplaces or on the go.
As we navigated this period of change, we wanted to ensure we had a strategy that could help us deliver on our ambition of bringing Pret to more people and cater to their new routines. We’d long been looking at ways to develop our digital propositions and Covid helped accelerate this.
Challenges brought on by the pandemic helped us to hone our focus to ensure we had a viable business model that would help Pret thrive going forward. This became our transformation programme:
First up was delivery. When we reopened our first ten shops in April 2020, delivery was a key option for us. Previously, we only offered delivery via one partner, and it represented a fraction of our sales.
As footfall in city centres dwindled, we recognised the delivery market, which was already an established industry for food-to-go retailers and customers alike, as a key way for us to serve our customers quickly.
For us, delivery was a newer proposition. By gradually expanding our delivery marketplace service providers we were focused on honing operational efficiency and improving customer experience.
We now offer delivery via Deliveroo, Just Eat and Uber Eats and consider this an incredibly successful venture for us. Even as footfall began to recover at the end of 2021, we continued to see healthy week-on-week growth for delivery orders.
“The idea behind The Pret Coffee Subscription was to create a digital, omni-channel offering that would bring Pret to more people and grow our customer base”
Consumer packaged goods
We always wanted to offer a range of Pret products for customers to enjoy at home. So, the next part of our strategy was the launch of our consumer packaged goods (CPG) offer, which we brought to market in record time.
Just five weeks after an initial call with our coffee supplier, we launched our first packaged 100% organic coffees on Amazon before rolling them out to other major UK retailers. This was an amazing team achievement.
Our retail coffees were just the start of our CPG offer. In 2021, we launched a range of frozen bake-at-home croissants made famous from our shops, as well as four vegan granolas inspired by our customers’ favourite breakfast items. We now have a strong retail presence across the UK and continue to look for new ways to bring the joy of Pret to customers at home.
The Pret Perks loyalty scheme offers subscribers the chance to earn stars for every transaction they make | Photo credit: Narain Jashanmal
The Pret Coffee Subscription
An industry first, the idea behind The Pret Coffee Subscription was to create a digital, omni-channel offering that would bring Pret to more people and grow our customer base. We initially piloted the concept in Manchester to understand customer awareness and likability.
After a successful beta trial, The Pret Coffee Subscription was rolled out nationwide in September 2020. The Pret Coffee Subscription allows customers to redeem five Barista-made drinks a day for £25 a month, including coffees, teas, frappés and smoothies.
Since the launch of The Pret Coffee Subscription, we’ve had over 50 million redemptions.
We have also launched a beta trial of our first loyalty programme – ‘Pret Perks’ for coffee subscribers. The Pret Perks loyalty scheme offers subscribers the chance to earn stars for every transaction they make, marking another step forward in our digital transformation.
Investing in our team
The last but arguably most important part of our transformation was the investment in our teams. New technology and product initiatives are important, but it’s the hard work and dedication of team members that really delivers results. In January 2022 we invested £9.2m ($12.6m) in our teams, marking our biggest ever pay and benefits increase in our 36-year history.
The investment recognised the resilience, hard work and dedication of Pret’s Shop Teams through the Covid-19 pandemic and the amazing Pret culture that allows us to continue delivering the best possible service for our customers.
Over the next five years, we plan to double the size of our UK business and expand into more suburban and regional areas, retail parks and travel hubs. We will continue to invest in our digital capabilities, food and coffee and most importantly, our people.
This article was first published in Issue 10 of 5THWAVE magazine.
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