The Pain of Working at Pret A Manger

King’s Cross / St. Pancrass are some of the worst Prets to work in:

2019-03-22 Customer Noticing busyness Pret1

Two customers recently have commented on the intense stress or the lack of management on the shop floor during busy times.

  • Most customers only complain when they have to wait more than 2 minutes to be served, while being perfectly happy to wait 10 minutes at Starbucks. This is because customers now are “spoiled”, knowing they get served within minutes, even seconds at Pret. I explain in my interview at the bottom why Pret has the 1 minute rule.
  • Most don’t understand that staff are forced to serve within 1 minute or they may lose the bonus if the Mystery Shopper wasn’t happy with the timing and service.
  • Most people do not see the stress and pain staff go through.
  • Most don’t care to know about the fear management under harsh managers and the depression staff suffer. I mentioned this to customers on Twitter who were fast to complain about the service, I told them that I was complimented many times by colleagues, customers and Mystery Shopper reports on my service, friendliness, giving coffees on the house etc. Of course I had bad days as well, but I received a lot of good feedback and yet no-one knew how many times I left my shift after work headed for the bridge, especially during bereavement and the bullying on top of it Pret put me through.

My story at the bottom in an interview.

But only two customers that I found recently speaking out on behalf of overworked staff. Yes, customers also go on Twitter to commend staff for giving free coffees and being (seem!) happy and smiley. But no customer asks themself how anyone can smile, be happy, chatty for 8, 10, 12+ hours EVERY DAY in an intensely stressful, noisy, busy, often hot and dry environment, where they are not allowed by management to drink even water behind the counter to stay hydrated. People have NO idea how exhausting, stressful and depressing the job is. And they are expected to fake a happiness and smiles or lose bonus when the Mystery Shopper marks them down and managers threaten them with disciplinaries or job security in the office.

2018-10-02 Modern day slavery depression

Depression. Anxiety. Dread to go to work

NEW Glassdoor review 05.05.2019 from a Team Leader

2019-05-05 DON'T APPLY Team Leader


End of June 2019 Glassdoor recommendations for Pret and the CEO:

2019-06-30 44 staff 50 Clive

I write extensively about this in the Emotional Labour article.

2019-03-19 Response to customer complaint re manager


The second Tweet is a response to the CEO’s reply to the above tweet, yet it’s not addressed to his Twitter account nor posted in the same feed as above. Not sure what that’s all about:

2019-03-19 Customer re managers


And this customer’s observation made my day, because most people either don’t see the stress nor care how horrendous it is for staff. In this case here it’s King’s Cross, one of the most (and worst) busiest branches. I worked there for a week to help as they were always low on staff. After that week and the manager asking me if I can come again, I politely declined, there’s only so much mental and physical pain you can take.

2019-03-22 Customer Noticing busyness Pret1


2019-03-22 customer kings cross emma observation stress


2018-10-20 Staff cry

Link There are more tears that flow behind the scenes in the kitchens, staff rooms, in the bus going home… Just 1 customer had enough eyes to see and care!

2013 Customer being treated nice by manager then snap at staff

Link (It makes the employee feel even weirder not to mention shamed and humiliated crying in the staff room later!)

2015-09-29 Staff cry


Yes, as a Team Leader I had to console a lot of Team Members over the years after they were shouted at by managers and/or customers, received a warning because they didn’t smile when they served the Mystery Shopper etc. I cried many times, but as a Team Leader not in front of my team, I locked myself away in the toilet or on my way home in the bus I just led the tears flow.

And in all this Pret tasks the weekly Mystery Shoppers that visit every shop to probe on the following among also probing if they are served within 1 minute, receive their hot drink within 1 minute etc.:

Below MS excerpt:
Pret: We aim to serve our customers within 1 minute of joining the queue. Were you served in a reasonable time…
MS: I was served in less than a minute.

Pret: We aim to serve our customer their hot drink within 1 minute of payment. Did you receive your hot drink order within a reasonable time …
MS: I was served my hot drink almost instantly.

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 greeted at the till or given a smile…

THIS then often means the WHOLE team loses the bonus and even without losing the bonus, it will have the manager summon the TM in the office who served the MS and they will be fear managed. They are then explained that their job is to smile and do all the things Pret forces on them if they want to keep their job. I consoled many TMs over the years and was told off myself, even during bereavement.

MS Excerpt:

04 MS

An amazing picture by brummie_photography on Instagram shows the cramped counter area, where staff have to serve EACH customer with a smile, eye contact and some polite remarks, as set forth to the Mystery Shopper to test. I counted around 11 staff members in an approx. 10sqm area. If ONE Team Member had a bad moment, even if they smiled ALL day, but one bad moment serving the MS, the WHOLE team lose the bonus for that week! THIS is Pret reality behind the “happiness” and the smiles.

2019-04-28 Cramped counter sardines

Customer recognizes forced friendliness happiness2

2018 Emotional Labour Labor Quota Smiles2

What staff go through behind the scenes that customers don’t see, nor care about:

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The above slideshow is just a selection, the list goes on in —> Pret Staff Complaints

2019-04-16 Depression



For the first time I verbally tell my story with Pret in one setting on a podcast.

Full Interview:

Above interview is with Adam from The Adam Paradox podcast on my experience in Pret A Manger.

The main subject being workplace bullying, we also spoke about gaslighting, “shadow banning” and censorship on social media, as well as bereavement, trauma and mental health in general and what to look out for in an interview for a new job. I further talked about the significant timing of Pret CEO’s announcement of the £1000 Tweet for all staff. I also talked about a regular day in Pret and how staff have to cut corners, in order to fulfill the immense workload under constant pressure.

It is hard to squeeze my traumatic experience into a podcast segment, but we covered enough to get a good picture of today’s systemic stress environment for profit driven global companies.

Please visit his Podcast and Twitter @1AdamParadox.

HOUNDED, bullied at Pret:

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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