ScenarioPrêt A Manger opened their first shop in the mid-1980s, in London. Now they have over 130 shops in UK, New York, Hong Kong and Tokyo. They say that their secret is to focus continually on quality – not just of their food, but in every aspect of their operations practice. They go to extraordinary lengths to avoid the chemicals and preservatives common in most ‘fast’ food, say the company. ‘Many food retailers focus on extending the shelf life of theirfood, but that’s of no interest to us.
We maintain our edge by selling food that simply can’t be beaten for freshness. At the end of the day, we give whatever we haven’t sold to charity to help feed those who would otherwise go hungry. When we were just starting out, a big supplier tried to sell us coleslaw that lasted sixteen days. Can you imagine! Salad that lasts sixteen days? There and then we decided Pret would stick to wholesome fresh food – natural stuff. We have not changed that policy.’
The first Prêt A Manger shop had its own kitchen where fresh ingredients were delivered first thing every morning, and food was prepared throughout the day.
Every Pret shop since has followed this model. The team members serving on the tills at lunchtime will have been making sandwiches in the kitchen that morning.
The company rejected the idea of a huge centralized sandwich factory even though it could significantly reduce costs. Prêt also own and manage all their shops directly so that they can ensure consistently high standards in all their shops. ‘We are determined never to forget that our hard-working people make all the difference. They are our heart and soul. When they care, our business is sound. If they cease to care, our business goes down the drain. In a retail sector where high staff turnover is normal, we’re pleased to say our people are much more likely to stay around! We work hard at building great teams. We take our reward schemes and career opportunities very seriously.
We don’t work nights (generally), we wear jeans, we party!’ Customer feedback is regarded as being particularly important at Pret. Examining customers’ comments for improvement ideas is a key part of weekly management meetings, and of the daily team briefs in each shop.
Adapted from: Operations Management 6th ed - N. Slack, et al., (Pearson, 2010) BBS