What is the difference between the Takeaway managers who were sentenced to prison and Pret A Manger’s repeated deaths and injuries of customers?
BBC Report: (Judge’s verdict) “Neither of you actually foresaw the death of anyone. It never occurred to you that you would be responsible for the death of a young girl. Quite simply, you never gave the risk of a customer dying because of an allergy a moment’s thought.
“You must now live with the guilt of what you have done and the suffering you have caused Megan’s family and to your own families. All of this is a tragedy that could so easily have been avoided had you exercised the proper care to be expected of those who serve food to the public.”
How is that different to Pret that had TWO customers die (that the public knows about), a third almost fatal, several in hospital and repeated ignored warnings from customers?
- Judge: “Neither of you actually foresaw the death of anyone.”
– Neither did Pret, even though they received repeated warnings especially regarding sesame where a 17 year old teenager was hospitalized before Natasha Ednan-Laperouse died.
- Judge: “It never occurred to you that you would be responsible for the death of a young girl.”
– And yet, it may have occurred to Pret as they were warned, including Clive Schlee’s poor response to an open letter before Natasha died.
- Judge: “Quite simply, you never gave the risk of a customer dying because of an allergy a moment’s thought.”
– Just like Pret that was warned repeatedly and even now still has issues with wrong labelling and just blames downward, while labelling every product, every night since a few years for charity.
BBC report: The judge said: “The Royal Spice had no systems or processes to manage allergen control. The menu contained no information about allergens. No record was kept of the ingredients used in dishes.
“In short, it appears that no one at the takeaway had any way of knowing what allergens were in the food supplied.”
Pret A Mess:
- repeated ignored warnings before & after Natasha’s death
- CEO not knowing how to respond
- Continued issues with wrong labelling and items in wrong packaging/cup, even after two deaths and hospitalizations.
The sentencing of the two take away managers may be as an example for small businesses that often do lack in hygiene and training. I am very fortunate to not have any allergies whatsoever, but the first thing I do when I walk into a restaurant to wash my hands before the meal, I check the toilets. Whatever I find in the back gives me a good idea what I will get in the front! Food poisoning is no respecter of persons! I have walked out of restaurants many times based on the toilets. I have a zero tolerance on the lack of hygiene.
BBC report: “Those who fail to heed the warnings and who continue to flout food safety regulations may find the courts taking a harsher view in the future.”
Which takes me back to the question why Pret keeps getting away with repeated incidences? Does it really always boil down to money and is the public so lulled in to the shiny facade Pret polished for years, covering up what’s really behind it?
BBC: The two-week trial heard there was a “litany of failings” in the kitchen, including poor hygiene and no records of ingredients kept.
Pret A Mice and the Company’s Procrastination
Pest and poor hygiene issues were rampant in Pret years ago. I worked in one particular mice infested shop in around 2010/11 and asked for a transfer to a pest-free shop, as I couldn’t take working in this shop anymore. Usually mice, rats etc. come out of hiding when the shop is closed, quiet and dark. But in this particular shop that was very old before the refurbishments Pret did throughout the company, the mice were so bold they strolled along under the barista cupboard during the busy and loud morning coffee rush. As staff we saw the critters and just held our breath not knowing what to do. I requested to be transferred out from this shop.
Pret used to have internal pest control people who regularly came in to do proofing when there were issues, and we had to constantly call them, but they were unable to tackle the issue and were just fixing holes. They and we all were literally playing a cat and mouse game where the mice won. As a Team Member I even suggested to the pest control person if we couldn’t just close the shop for a few days and solve the issue head on, and I remember very very well him saying that he kept talking to Pret but they did not see any urgency to resolve this. I was appalled because it was getting worse. Once a pair of mice is in they multiply in no time.
Only after an EHO closed a Pret shop after a routine check, finding evidence of pest, did Pret react and commissioned an outside pest control company to take over. Pret went from complete apathy into complete panic mode. Managers were blamed even though there was no clear procedure and training in place as I was a leader already and received no training on pest control at the time. Some managers were fired, other managers were reduced back to assistant manager roles, even though they had no to little training. The blame was always on the shops.
After my transferal to another shop we had one mouse appear and the reaction from Pret suddenly was very very quick after the EHO’s closure. And rightly so. They employed a former EHO to help who was extremely strict and almost on OCD level pressuring us on the tiniest issues. This of course helped, but was extremely stressful compared to our call for help before and being ignored. I and colleagues were summoned to an “informal” meeting where the area manager questioned us on how we dealt with the mouse issue (while not having been trained).
Tactically he was taking notes and let me sign each note. He did that as a typical Pret fear management thing, but at one point I refused to sign if he doesn’t add that the shop I worked in previously that had the mice infestation in the same area where he himself was the area manager at the time, but didn’t act. He quickly realised that this stunt doesn’t work as we had plenty of evidence in the other shop of the amount of times we did a call out for the internal pest control people who couldn’t tackle the issue. After many months of training. and most importantly, the external pest control company doing regular checks, Pret finally got on top of the problem.
Pest is rampant especially in a city like London. It is completely normal that a restaurant or any place will have pest issues from time to time, even when they are squeaky clean hygienically, but with a prompt and professional approach it can be tackled fast. But as usual for Pret it took a major happening, an EHO closing a shop before they reacted while ignoring staff’s and internal pest control people’s concerns.
So, Pret can do it if they want to! And do it prompt and fast! … If they want to!
Pret now has hired ex-FSA boss Tim Smith as Food Safety Adviser.
Once Pret makes up their mind and finally “re”acts after a catastrophic and public event, they employ the best of the best and the most experienced, but it takes shop closures (= loss of money), deaths and this becoming public (= reputation, loss of profit) before this giant wakes from its slumber and complacency where the blaming downwards doesn’t work anymore as the top got caught out being the ones not taking responsibility!
So Pret does a smart thing, an EHO closes down at least one shop due to pest issues, and Pret employs a former EHO because they know what to look for and how an EHO thinks. Customers die and get injured, but no concern there at all for at least two years, but only since the inquest and it becoming public, Pret does the smart thing again to get the ex-CEO from the FSA.
Both very good moves as they know exactly how to improve, the problem is, mice have to multiply NOT to the point that staff get disgusted working there and food is compromised for customers (I won’t go into detail), but only after a shop closure is Pret going into full gear. Two deaths becoming public, no not, 1 death happened and Pret put on the brakes, it had to become public with an inquest. And people get excited about Christmas sandwiches and are bribed with free cookies. Sad and scary world we live in, where people willingly prostitute their principles and values for occasional free and colourful food.
Pret A Monopoly
Pret has drawn the Get-out-of-jail-card and will get away with two deaths and several injuries, or at “worst” get fined, while two small fish will serve as an example to smaller businesses and the big guns get away with “murder”.
Other profit driven fast re-actions from Pret that only serves PR[et] in the post “Immediate PR[et] vs. Labelling Delay“.
I worked at Pret A Manger and survived systemic workplace bullying during bereavement that involved HR, the top leadership, HQ and even the now “retired” former CEO Clive Schlee. I declined 4 settlement offers if I am silent about my ordeal. But I rather starve and speak out to help others. For an overview of important blog entries of my experience with Pret, please visit “My Ordeal with Pret A Manger”. The little arrow to the right next to each heading will lead directly to the post.
I tell my story for the first time verbally in below audio player interview on a podcast by The Adam Paradox, and wrote an article in the Scottish Left Review.
Thank you for reading/listening.
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