Daily wasted food in plastic onto landfill (London, New York, Chicago, Paris … everywhere)
To anyone concerned about food waste in plastic to landfill, please don’t be fooled by Pret’s generic question on Twitter on “which shop” this is from and they’ll have a word with the manager bla bla.
This is bogus, as Pret is very aware, and staff are then told to waste AWAY from customers’ glance. I wasted countless bin bags of what can be seen below due to lack of staff, time etc. Also, there are food bins in Pret kitchens and the shop behind the counter, BUT due to constant lack of staff, there is NO WAY staff can separate all the food from its packaging! £8.25 workers are NOT paid for overtime, yet are always manipulated and pushed to work longer without pay. They are so exhausted, and they stop caring. Pret settled TWO class actions in New York on WAGE THEFT having had to repay 4000 workers, while the same problem in the UK exists, but staff never have the idea to organize and sue.
New York staff review September 2019 “always getting sued” and expired food:
Former Pret employee who got fired for starting a Union: Pret A Manger Staff Union Tweet
I can only say again and again for anyone to go undercover for more than a month into different shops and countries to see how vast this problem is. The below photos from London, New York, Chicago etc. is just the tip of the iceberg.
Link – Former Pret employee
Former Pret employee
NEW 29. March 2021: Some staff now put Pret food-waste by street waste bins, away from Pret shops to avoid getting caught again wasting food. And Pret plays dumb asking “which shop” this was from, knowing very well it’s normal, just make sure to not get caught!
31. May 2020 during lock-down where food is scarce and supermarket shelves were emptied due to panic-buying and hoarding:
Paris 2018, a big dumpster full of mainly salads:
A Pret staff member’s Facebook post on over £500 worth of food waste, from ONE shop, in ONE day. That staff member went out (unpaid!) to distribute to people. The highest waste I’ve ever logged was around £500 as well! This staff member doesn’t realize that Pret doesn’t care where the food goes, and certainly not that the staff member distributes the food without getting paid over-time.
UPDATE December 2020
July 2020 Pret opposite Olc Vic London
UPDATED: Feb. 2020
Pic from @5awaga 28. Jan 2016 USA (I love the eaten apple “skeleton” in the midst of plenty of food)
05. June 2019
September 2019, Chicago
August 2019 Chicago Pret Staff Review:
UPDATE: November 2019
Pret seemed to have changed the bin bags now since my blog post about the food waste.
The bin bags are now NON-transparent, so the food waste can’t be spotted!
Clever, Pret 😉
Photo by Jonatan Lomax on Twitter
UPDATED: December 2019 – more non-transparent bin bags to hide possible food waste in plastic to landfill:
Link to @DaniBryce1
The above are only a few of the photos customers bother to go on Twitter to complain. The problem is much larger as I wasted I don’t know how much food in 10 years, not to mention how food is wasted in the kitchens! The main problem is over-production where staff are stressed, pushed and bullied to produce huge amounts in little time… and a lot of it for the bin! And CEO Clive Schlee pockets £30 million after the JAB purchase. So, yes, Pret is desperate to uphold an image of “charity”. But so many issues are way out of balance. Not to mention how customer deaths and ignored warnings were dealt with until this became public… not to mention how staff are really treated behind the scenes and forced to smile for an extra £100 via the weekly Mystery Shopper visits. Or if the Mystery Shopper comments that staff didn’t smile, fear management is used and the threat of job loss as the bonus can be lost…
UPDATE: December 2019
Only one of many such Tweets by a customer who wants more variety. If you click on the photos, tell me if this is really not enough choice. The demands for more choice results in more waste. The customer calls these “empty” shelves! Count the products in there, as well as the variety!
In above photos I counted a variety of 25+ products and around 105 products at least. Sure, it’s 1pm and according to Pret standard they are OUT OF SELECTION, which would lose them Mystery Shopper bonus big time. BUT, in few minutes the shelves are filled again with a lot of products. By the end of the day there will have been an over-production and high waste again. If a shop is out of selection at 1pm, this means they are understaffed OR if they have enough staff, they have a lot of new people who are still learning the products and cannot work fast yet.
Pret staff reviews (reality):
Former TM review from 18. Oct. 2018. The “55 Yes” vs. “0 No” votes speak for itself.
UPDATE: April 2019 further below from the UK and the USA of Pret staff throwing food out even while a shop is still open. Again, if staff are overworked, underpaid, bullied (collected here) … they stop caring and sabotage the company, and unfortunately with it also those in need. I learned from a former Pret General Manager, working for the competition that when he was a Team Member and his manager bullied him and the team, they would throw whole food packages like cakes etc. out while doing the morning delivery checks. They were so angry at the manager that they threw NEW food items straight into the bin that came from the food supplier. They didn’t even mark it off the invoice because they wanted to created a huge unaccounted for the manager to sabotage the manager’s bonus.
As customers again keep going to Twitter with photos, videos and comments about seeing bags of food waste from Pret, instead of this being donated to those in need I want to explain why this is happening more than people realize and Pret wants to admit. I speak from 10 years as former Pret staff throwing countless bin bags of food away!
Twitter pic from @dwphilbrick video from NY
The Sunday Mirror photo. The most bags like this I remember wasting into the rubbish room at one time was 3 (THREE) bags in one night! Also, because some waste companies pick up rubbish in the morning, bags like this are stored in the rubbish room over night adding to the risk of pest, mice etc. being drawn in, especially over the weekend when there is no rubbish pick-up in some stores depending on the waste company, council etc.
Quote from Amy’s report: “At the end of the shift I apply allergen stickers to leftover sarnies, salads and pots. These are given to the homeless as part of the commendable Pret Foundation scheme. But there are never enough stickers and a bagful of perfectly edible food is binned each day.” (I underlined).
A pretty bleak and stern warning to Pret concerning donating food to the wrong place, as huge amounts are binned every day and donating to wrong places is not helping people to be self-sufficient. Worth watching the video in the Tweet:
Link to video message for Pret. This also shows how production is set too high, staff are stressed with doing too many products for the bin! But as long as businesses like Pret make their millions (CEO pockets £30 million for himself alone!) this waste issue will continue.
April 2019 USA
Link … I love the wordplay “hangry”!
April 2019 UK
In recent years Pret has been one of the trailblazers in giving left-over food each night to charity and people in need. But Pret is not the only one, they are just at the forefront “PR-ing” about it loudly. In the 1990’s I volunteered for a charity and once a week we were one of the places that Boots gave left-over sandwiches to us for distribution. Our day was Wednesday from the charities in the area (Notting Hill). This was in the mid 90s, 7 years after Pret started business in 1983 in Hampstead, was shut and restarted in 1986 in Victoria.
In my 10 years in Pret I don’t even want to think back on the amount of bin bags of food we had to throw away. In the beginning the reason for this waste was that at times charity did not pick it up or some shops did not have a Friday pick-up for example. Of course this could have been avoided by having teams go out to bring the food to places or call other neighbouring areas, as each area has their charities appointed for each shop. Some shops have 2, 3 or more charities who have their delegated day for the pick-up, like my charity had Wednesdays in the 90s with Boots.
But sending out the closing team sounds good on paper, but Pret staff are so swamped with work and exhausted by the end of the day to even bother bringing food out. And staff are not paid over-time while they are being over-worked, understaffed, given so many tasks to do. I was one of the few team leaders who was very organized and helped my teams instead of sitting in the office as leaders like to do. So, we often managed to finish on-time. But still then, we were extremely exhausted to do anything extra “on the house” after 9 or 10pm, while our bosses didn’t care if we worked longer unpaid. Managers in every shop like to cut hours to maximize profit and management bonuses. This in turn puts a humongous strain on staff and they are too exhausted and stop caring.
One Pret employee puts this in clear words: “Advice to Management – Either stop cutting hours or stop giving teams a ridiculous amount of tasks to complete.“
Another from a barista on 30.01.2019:
I can relate a lot to these reviews! It always seemed like managers enjoyed burdening down staff, while they sat in the office or left early to go home, not to mention not working on weekends. And the next day when tasks were not done, because team members were swamped unnecessarily with work, understaffed, exhausted, managers held their sermon in the office, telling off mainly the team leader and the team at times as well. It was a lose-lose situation and the point came that I had enough of this and sent my teams home on the dot of when our shift was supposed to finish. After having given overtime many times without pay I drew the line and suffered the consequences of not being the manager’s favourite.
But I didn’t care. My priority was the team’s welfare who most of them have families at home and with the shift finishing at 9 or 10pm they often hardly saw their kids. I made sure the most important tasks like health and safety, cleaning etc. was done, and other not vital issues I left undone. This at times helped because some managers then gave us an extra team member or allowed me to pay my team the extra time, because my managers knew how I worked, that my teams were not lazy, but gave their best every time.
And labelling food for charity started in 2015 or 2016, I can’t remember, but this added to the work load while not getting extra staff to finish all the work load Pret demands. So, with the labelling issue for charity I had to decide to keep to the very end. If we managed to finish important tasks we labeled the food. Many times we didn’t even have enough labels printed, or couldn’t find on the computer where the labels were for printing, or other organizational issues we had no time to solve. If we couldn’t label, I was instructed to throw the food out, even when charities came by and demanded the food! I had to refuse, apologize and explain how swamped we were with tasks but low on staff and not paid overtime. I only managed to give the persons picking up the food, if they wanted to eat something then and there where they had access to the allergen information in the shop.
In the beginning of labelling we would give unlabelled food to charity, but some charities would then complain to Pret HQ that the products weren’t labelled or partly labelled when we ran out of time or labels. Other charities got angry with us for NOT giving out unlabelled food. It was a constant struggle between the fronts. So, I made the decision that if my boss said to not give food out, they have to take it up with management. Little did I know WHY this was so important to label, as we were not informed of the two customers having died from unlabelled allergen hidden in products. There wasn’t even as much as a hint to be more vigilant with the labelling, except to not give food out to charity unlabelled. That was all, but no explanation as to why because there wasn’t any labelling for customers. It didn’t make sense at the time until when the deaths became public.
Charity allergen labelling posted on Twitter
But to work overtime a few minutes here and there without pay was not the issue for me, especially when emergencies happened like flooding, power-cut, accidents etc. And it was no issue for my teams either. If this was the exception it’s perfectly fine, but in Pret this was the rule and I had to draw the line. If an employer doesn’t care for their workforce, the workforce will not care for the company. Exceptions are always okay, but not exploitation and constant issues like this. And the above review is spot on as I experienced this for 10 years in shop after shop and was one of the very few to draw the line as my teams were always happy when I ran the shift as they knew they’d finish in time!
The lawsuit of 4000 Pret workers in the USA shows this as well: “Pret A Manger Settles Overtime Wage Claim” and the long list of Pret Staff Complaints I collected from various sites unto one page linking to each review. And Selected Quotes that really brings the stressful environment home which I experienced shop after shop with the last 3 years traumatically in bereavement.
But the issue of food being wasted each night, it is a bigger problem than Pret wants to admit. The only way for this to be minimized is for staff to be paid overtime or have enough team members on the shop floor who are TRULY trained, not just on paper, covering for all the tasks Pret expects.
A list of customer complaints, some with photos and video and some Updates on recent Tweets:
This issue Pret responds by claiming: “this is very concerning to hear as we donate our unsold cold food to the homeless throughout the UK. Can you DM us with which shop this was in and some more information on whether it was hot or cold food?”
First of all the constant repeat to get customers away from the public eye into private DM with the question of which shop while Pret knows EVERY shop does that. And to ask if this was hot or cold, Pret knows very well that “egg rolls from the COUNTER” are cold products! But this “pret”-ense (sorry, can’t help it!) of not knowing is bogus, because Pret sets the time for these breakfast baguettes in the morning as for 2 hours of shelf-life.
These baguettes are marked on the back from the time they are made in the kitchen to the time staff have to waste them as the quality decreases and the baguette becomes soggy when not refrigerated. If the OPs manager happens to come by, they often check the time of the product and the team leader responsible for the shift gets in trouble if the items are still on sale while the time has passed the expiration “hour”.
In my 10 years we were never ever instructed to keep them until the evening for charity. Never! They are supposed to be thrown without packaging into the green food waste bin behind the counter or in the kitchen. But again, because team members are so busy and stressed, they just chuck it in the regular bin. I managed many times to waste it into the food waste bin, but even while I worked very fast, I didn’t always manage and at times also threw it into the regular bins. It is just plainly impossible to follow the ridiculous amount of demands Pret sets, especially when managers also cut staff to maximize profit and with it their bonus. It’s always and forever just about money for management! Full stop!
Link from 2016
The next Tweet is a terrible example of how staff stop caring and even sabotaging innocent people in need. I have not witnessed this in any of my shops that teams poured bleach on food to make it uneatable, but I have heard countless stories of how staff sabotage the business because the managers did not care for their teams. I heard from a former manager that when he was Team Member, he saw at times how teams threw whole new packs of cakes and other food items in the bins during the morning delivery checks, to sabotage the managers bonuses: high waste (unaccounted items) = less bonus.
I personally have witnessed staff throwing Pret brochures away, that give employees steps and values to follow. But because many managers are the worst examples in portraying any values, and teams realize that if the top leadership does not care, it trickles down to lower management. Managers pressured with targets, overwhelmed, not well trained, and the worst being complacent; teams become disheartened and at times throw these booklets away with an angry smirk and whatever else they do in anger or to sabotage managers’ bonuses.
But to destroy food by pouring bleach on it is quite horrendous! But it should give the public some insight in how frustrated staff are. I keep linking to a selection of the Staff Complaints I collected to highlight this, as well as my own trauma with Pret.
Retweeted from same feed:
I keep saying all the time that if something looks to good to be true (from the outside) who will take a closer look? I write from inside knowledge… but most people don’t want to know how it really is. It’s far easier to be lulled in with brilliant marketing and a smiley facade, added with fast Tweets and customer service. Amy Sharpe’s undercover report was a good start, but she worked only in the evening closing shift. It would be great for someone to work undercover in Pret for at 1 month in the kitchen from 5am on. That is where the Pret blow is felt.
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The above slideshow is just a selection, the list goes on in → Pret Staff Complaints
UPDATE: Oct. 2019 Glassdoor scores
And the legacy Clive Schlee left with:
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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.
An incomplete list on what other Pret staff say about Pret’s bullying environment: Caught in the Act Bullying at Pret.
I tell my story for the first time verbally in below audio player interview on a podcast by The Adam Paradox, and wrote two articles in the Scottish Left Review.
Thank you for reading/listening.
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