Only two of the countless mislabelled soups in Pret. A major reason is Hot Chefs who are responsible for all hot food preparations are swamped with work, understaffed, overworked, often not trained properly and just thrown into the job for lack of staff. The Hot Chef position is the hardest job on the shop floor as they never stop going from the morning breakfast rush into the lunch rush, non-stop and often in cramped work spaces.
And while they are paid a few pennies more, but still under £10 an hour, they are brainwashed to believe they are paid more, while in reality they work double and triple the amount. I was thrust into the Hot Chef position when I started in Pret but stopped it after a few weeks as I didn’t get training, no pay-rise and started to have pain in my shoulders and arms. Horrendously hard work, non-rewarding and ridiculously underpaid, but staff are made to believe they are paid better… pennies better but have to work double and triple as hard.
If the below customers (which are only the tip of the iceberg) would have allergies with some of the products looking similar, I wonder how many injuries, even deaths have occurred the public doesn’t know about.
Link 7. Feb. 2019
Link 16. Jan. 2019
The latest Hot Chef review from 1st March 2019 on Indeed:
Only 2 of many reviews collected on Pret Staff Complaints.
Below is a series of more customer complaints of half empty coffees, un-stirred hot chocolates, poor coffee quality, chicken instead of vegan soup, pork instead of veggie pot, stingy ingredients in wraps, wrongly labelled … These are just a small collection here of those people care to go on Twitter with photos. I stopped updating, but the issues continue.
To say upfront, the reason the coffees are often half empty, or the wrong milk was added, or no milk at all, is to a great deal because of the 1 minute demand to serve hot drinks from the time of payment.
The weekly Mystery Shopper even times it to the second which adds to the horrendous stress.
Pret: “We aim to serve out customers within 1 minute of joining the queue. Were you served in a reasonable time, bearing in mind how busy the shop was and the number of open tills?”
Mystery Shopper: “I was served very quickly, after 15 seconds, very quick service.” Yet, the MS gives 4 out of 5 points as if 1.5 seconds would have been more acceptable for a perfect score.
If the staff is successful in most things the whole team receives the bonus, if the MS marks them down on few things including getting the coffee in 2 minutes, the whole team loses bonus. But even if bonus is won or lost, and individual staff member can win an extra £100 or double up to £200 if they were extremely nice by giving free coffees and food, or be really chatty or outstanding where the Mystery Shopper is either served or witnesses this generosity and “happiness”. And customers are fooled to think Pret staff are so happy, while completely ignoring how intensely stressful, exhausting, loud and harsh the rush times are.
or if successful, then the team member received £100 extra or double £200 if everything was a perfect Mystery Shopper score.
If bonus was lost or the points were low the team member or members were getting told off. It’s either win some extra money or get pressure and fear managed, but the whole work in between to serve the MS who’s only there 10-15 minutes or longer per week, is too much stress with the expectation to smile, be chatty and show a forced happiness for 6, 8 10+ hours everyday adds to the decline of mental health and dignity. I was expected to smile while traumatically bereaved.
Pret claims that staff have 1 minute to serve 1 customer. Apart from the 1 minute per customer service being already way too fast to do proper customer service, it is unrealistic. Most Prets have on average 7 – 10+ tills. Mostly there are only 3 on the tills and 1 – 2 baristas on the coffee machines, even during extreme morning rushes that I have worked like this. At busy periods the queue is to the door and even outside the door, but managers refuse to get more team members to man the tills as this would cut a slice out of their labour expenses and decreases their bonus.
So, reality is, Team Member are swamped and overworked in intense stress, but they conditioned and brainwashed to serve within a minute. The computer print-outs at the end of the day that showed exactly how many transactions at what times which team member did on which till shows the immense volume of customers that come through EACH staff member’s till.
I myself served on average 25 – 30 transactions within a 15 minute period. That is 2 transactions per minute. That is NOT 2 customers per minute as 1 transaction is a payment being registered through the till. So, 1 transaction is anything from 1 customer to a group of 3, 5, 8 people. If you were too slow, your boss was on your case. So, the 1 minute per customer is bogus as staff turn into robots and are constantly on electricity without stopping.
What is so ridiculous is that most customers neither open their eyes, nor care to know how stressful this is physically and mentally on employees.
Very rarely does a customer speak out:
Amy Sharpe from the Sunday Mirror who went undercover in Pret after having read my blog also points out the stress:
“I am at a central London branch, where 10 staff vie for space, muttering apologies as we collide and stretch across one another to grab pastries and bags. I make green teas and filter coffees while my other drinks orders are prepared. It’s stressful and confusing and the queue makes it even more so.
All the while, staff must be alert to the issue of allergens.
One barista tells me the cramped service area is a ‘nightmare’.
He says: “If I’m next to you, you have to shout. If you don’t shout I can make a mistake. A person can grab the wrong coffee. Make mistakes and the customer gets mad. You’ve got to focus, stay calm.“
The cramped work areas are big problems in most Prets, be it front or back of house. Coffee makers have very little space to work, but are expected to make perfect coffees within 1 minute in an extreme stressful environment, often under harsh management, force to smile like an acrobat!
Even a sink directly in front of the left coffee machine, no space to work properly.
This problem is also in the kitchen, stock rooms, changing rooms and other back of house areas:
Customer areas are increased to get as many customers = money in as possible; staff areas are decreased. This then creates multiple problems, not only on the mental strain of staff but customers lives as mistakes happen quickly as with labelling I collected in another post “Ongoing issues, hospitalization, mislabelling…“:
One shop I worked in had only ONE multitask room: office, staff changing room with lockers, fridges, freezers, stock room, hot chef soup prep area, chemical room for cleaning materials etc and to top it all, illegally the rubbish room next to the food prep area! This shop was the worst shop I’ve worked in. This photo is from 2015 and after years like this, Pret was forced to expand the work space to separate the rubbish for health and safety reasons. This room was medium size and approx. 15 square meters max. A total nightmare.
Here are just few of the results of the 1 minute pressure, fear management and the cramped working areas that customers care to go on Twitter:
Back of house issues:
CHICKEN instead of VEGAN soup
PORK instead of VEGGIE pot
Before the customer deaths became public several customers asked Pret to label products, but the generic response from Pret was just to shift blame, and that was that.
etc. etc. etc.
These things continue even now, and it would take a much longer blog entry to list them here.
The pressure on staff to work so fast or get threatened with their job security puts not only customer lives at risk, but the mental strain on staff is horrendous.
Pret: “We aim to connect with every customer with eye contact, a smile and some polite remarks. Rate the engagement level of the person who served you at the till.”
MS: “I was not treated at the till or given a smile…”
Link Tweets on the reason why staff are “always” so “happy”, from the former Pret employee who was fired for having started a Union
For extensive insight into the humiliating Mystery Shopper requirements and “Emotional Labour” the press called it >>> How companies force Emotional Labour on Low Paid Workers
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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