Pret A Manger: Goodbye British Christmas, Bonjour Paris!

March 3, 2012 by  
Filed under Working Abroad

Pret A Manger: Goodbye British Christmas, Bonjour Paris!

After experiencing Pret A Manger’s luxurious décor; gorgeous salads, baguettes and gleaming eyed baristas; you wouldn’t be left with enough energy to wonder what goes on the other side of those star crested doors. While you were surrendering yourself to the sweet froth of a Pret latte, chances are you missed the best part about visiting one of the 265 branches across London, New York, Chicago; Washington and Hong Kong (wish we could mingle in all five!)

At Endeavour magazine, we believe in the spirit of Christmas. And as a late Christmas gift to you- we’re going to update you with the `best parts`. So Good Morning Britain, Hey America… and last but not least, Ni Hao to those of you in China!

We travelled to Pret’s very first branch in London Victoria to meet with the Head of Sustainability, Ms Nicki Fisher to unveil the secrets behind Pret A Manger’s global projects, hard grafted philanthropy and sparkling aspirations. We’ll be saying “Salut beauté” as Pret lands in Paris; we’ll arrive an hour early before our flight to catch a glimpse of a brand spanking new branch- and we’re having a little chat with our friends over at Pret USA (and wishing we were there). We’re also filling our ears with all the brilliant things that happened over the festive season. Who knew that a Christmas fare, fit for Saint Nicholas himself- could contribute directly to charity?

It was raining torrentially, our promising umbrellas had just blown inside out and all we could focus our minds on was our need for a hot, fluffy coffee (Mm- we wonder?) As soon as we stepped inside the Pret headquarters, our minds began to embark a little. It appeared as a contrary universe- waiting to be opened up to us and us only. Oh, and you lovely people, too…

Christmas in the United Kingdom

With December having just passed, we thought it fitting to pleasantly interrogate Nicki about the Christmassy bits… and there is a lot more to praise than just the hand-made mince tarts. Although they are a pretty good place to begin!

“With every seasonal sandwich that we sold, 25p was donated to local charities. This ensured that the less fortunate were able to have hot dinners throughout Christmas time as well as year round support”Nicki says with a great warmth, which instantly makes us believe they done a pretty good job of it. And with £124,470 raised in only five weeks- we have very little reason to believe otherwise. There was something on sale to suit all tastes- the `Christmas Lunch` for meat worshippers, and the `Brie & Cranberry` for Veggies- as well as the Gingerbread Snowman- all of which graced the cute Pret baubles in their Santa hats. There are 250 Pret branches in the United Kingdom; and thousands upon thousands of tummies wishing to sell their own soul for something a little festive to knock back the winter blues. By using our expertise in calculating equations, we figured that we would be seeing the six digit number fly off the gauge before we could blink the snow away from our eyes. And that would have been after we treated ourselves to our nearest Pret. Visit Pret A Manger’s web page to watch the baubles count up all of the pounds and pence donated over the festive season.

One man’s Christmas sandwich is another man’s Christmas pudding…

Philanthropy in the United Kingdom

Little White Vans

Pret A Manger is famous for using only the freshest ingredients; we know this because we often catch sight of the yummy pastries and coffee beans arriving on a burgundy trolley of an early morning. Like us, do you ever wonder what happens to any of the left-over products at the end of the day? (We would hate for them to go to waste). Thoughts like these led to the discovery of the `Pret Charity Run- small, white star crested vans which deliver any remaining goodies to local charities in the area… every, single, evening. This makes us shiver in our boots; firstly because it is icily cold outside the Pret headquarters… and secondly; more vitally- because we are considering the dauntlessness behind it.

Every evening, the unsold but still perfectly formed sandwiches, croissants; baguettes (the entirety) is distributed to those who, quite honestly- have nothing. The Pret Charity Run should not be confused with a project created solely for Christmas time; oh no, it should not. It is efficacious every evening, all year around. It is restless- which is the most exceptional factor about it. Dozens of organizations promote charity and good will seasonally. But why wait?

This is funded in a similar way to the Christmas dinners; which is by selling products such as the `Love Pret` bar, with charity donation tags (without the baubles, of course). It must be working especially well, because it has been providing for over 100 local charities and organizations from the year 1986. Some may argue that it is less complicated to rise the funding and then send it directly to the charities; so what is it about Pret a Manger’s morals, which makes them, go to such lengths to do things alternatively?

“It is too easy to send a cheque to an organization and feel good about yourself. There is littlecompassion behind it. I think it is very sad that Britain, as a first world country- is in a state where people are hungry on the streets” Nicki continues to explain just how many organizations depend on Pret A Manger’s daily visits. “We make it possible to eliminate the need for a food budget. The organizations are then able to put the extra money into other vital areas, such as medical treatment and housing”

Career Prospects for the Less Fortunate

We were already taken aback by how charitable the coffee chain was able to be around Christmas, when Nicki graced us with a bigger bombshell. A bigger, better one. Annually, the company helps homeless individuals off the street and makes them into special Pret A Manger apprentices; providing them with an allowance for food, travel and clothing as well as full pay. This ensures that the new recruits are presentable and able to carry out an average working day with ease; which, ultimately- allows them the same opportunities as any other individual working for Pret a Manger.

Nicki goes on to say, “Our apprentices are treated and paid in the same way as any other member of staff. We know how important it is to make them feel part of the team” We find this incredible. Pret AManger is a company that believes heavily in equal opportunities; so heavily that they help people off the streets, rebuild their lives and offer them full time careers. And thanks to Pret’s down to earth approach to employment, 88% of the apprentices that they took on last year have brand new lives. Following this success, Pret A Manger have plans to take on 70 extra recruits, as well as expanding the project- known as the `Simon Hargraves Apprenticeship Scheme`- to several cities outside of London after the new year.

Now we know why the baristas of Pret A Manger are always so gleamy-eyed…

New Year in the United Kingdom

Our minds are vibrating and we are on the edge of seats, peering into the eyes of this inspiring women that we now know as Nicki. The sudden overload of information has us wanting to come up for air- but we’re far too intrigued to go anywhere. We must find out more. And there’s one more question resting on our lips- just waiting to burst out- and because of this, we must stay a little longer.

What is waiting for Pret A Manger on their already beautifully expanded horizon?

“We plan to build on the foundations already laid around carbon reduction, ethical sourcing and healthy eating” Nicki says, before going on to explain exactly how they will do this. “We are increasing the vegetarian options on our British menu, as well as reducing the salt and fat content in many of ourproducts” Sounds brilliant to us already; our on-route breakfast from Pret, only skinnier. And it’s not only our mass that Pret A Manger wishes to keep healthy, either. “We believe in preserving as many of our natural resources as possible. Sustainability has always been very important to the company, so every year we strive to improve our performance in the key environmental and social concerns” Nicki says thoughtfully.

We can tell just how important this is, by the sustainability section of the website; where the targets- clear, concise and well thought out- are listed in burgundy stars down the centre of the page. Nicki goes on to tell us what is at the top of the list. “We are keeping an eye on our packaging lines, as well as introducing new in-store recycling stations” This does not surprise us. (Remember the recycled napkin thing? The baristas were obliged to present only one napkin to each guest and if anymore were given then said guest was allowed to give them an evil eye). And this is not meant as a bad thing. In fact, because recycling is promoted so much in the UK; it is actually comforting to know that one of the most obvious forms of resource preservation has not been missed out.

New Year in the United States of America

We love nothing more than hearing about different parts of the world (particularly about a collection of states in a far-flung kingdom known as the United States of America). So when we found out what our friends at Pret A Manger USA had been getting up to, we had butterflies the size of Brooklyn whirling around in our tummies.

Nicki, who also deals with the sustainability for Pret’s global branches, says “We are focusing on carbon footprint within the entire US business; as well as understanding the water usage to see where we can cut down” Pret A Manger USA are also following the success of the Brits, with plans to set up their own Pret Foundation Trust to help the hungry in the States just as in the UK.

Pret goes to Paris… and beyond

Pret a Manger are putting on their burgundy berets and mingling with the city of romance as they launch in Paris, France in early 2012.

If you’re flying out before Christmas, then you may encounter one of the two brand new branches in Heathrow Terminal 4 (Airside) or Manchester Piccadilly train station (Landside).

We would like to wish you a Happy New Year… wherever you are in the world.

Leonie Ann Garlick

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