Ever wondered why Pret staff refuse to say “double” espresso and why Pret advertises as “strong” espresso, or “make it strong”? Let me spill the coffee beans!
This pertains to all espresso based drinks like “strong latte”, “strong cappuccino” etc. I will just refer to all espresso drinks as espresso or shot.
Upfront, I’ve always been gobsmacked to see when a customer speaks down on a Team Member, who often is a foreigner. In above instance of Tim Bentinck who arrogantly ends his Tweet with, “Long discussion on use of English ensues”.
Well, read on and learn WHY the Team Member insisted on calling it a “strong” espresso, smarty-pants! Because if the TM would have called it a double espresso, he/she would have gotten in trouble! Has nothing to do with workers’ lack of English! And before anyone criticizes my English, because that’s what people do when they run out of arguments, English is not my first language. I learnt English as an adult, and I think I’m doing pretty well!
I am not up to date on the prices of an “extra” shot of espresso in any cafè or chain. So, for the sake of example I just use 50p for an extra shot at any or all cafès.
In most, if not all cafès/chains if you want an extra shot of espresso you will pay 50p on top of the regular espresso drink you ordered. So far so good.
But what does Pret do? They charge you 50p for HALF a shot, NOT a full espresso shot. Other brands charge 50p for a full extra espresso shot where Pret delivers half a shot and that’s why they call it NOT “double” espresso/shot but “strong” espresso/shot.
In other brands a double espresso is TWO full shots of espresso.
In Pret they would do false advertisement if they’d call it “double”, so they make it 1.5 shots of espresso and call it “strong”. Pret plays with psychology and assumption while never claiming to serve 2 full shots.
Customers ASSUME that “make it strong” for an extra 50p they get an extra full shot. Nopes. They get an extra HALF shot. The buttons on Pret’s Cimbali machines are programmed to grind a certain amount of grams for 1 full espresso shot and the other “strong” button has a slightly higher weight but not 2 full shots.
This picture is of one of Cimbali’s machines who supply Pret with coffee machines. The left button grinds for 1 shot of espresso, the 2. or 3. button grinds for 1.5 shots. If I remember right it is the 3. button that pours out 1.5 shots of espresso. The 2. button is void and doesn’t do anything. This is so that coffee makers don’t accidently press button #2 for single espresso while in a rush, meaning losing money.
To TRULY get a double espresso, the coffee maker would have to press button number 1 twice. On a rare occasion when a customer asks for a triple shot, the coffee maker pressed button #1 (= 1 shot) and then button #3 (= 1.5 shots) meaning the customer gets 2.5 NOT 3 shots. Try it out next time you are in Pret. A barista/coffee maker who cares for customers would press TWICE button #3 (strong shot) to give you a triple shot.
Also, little side-note, see how small the working space is that staff have to work with. Pret have always decreased space for staff: small staff rooms, small kitchens, HUGE space for customers (= £££), large space for equipment and products, but the smallest working space for staff. I cannot count the amount of times I myself and the coffee makers tipped the piping hot milk jugs off the working counter in the middle of crazy morning coffee rush, burning our hands, legs, feet as there was no space to work safely.
This is also the reason why staff are instructed to NOT pour a “strong” espresso into the small single shot espresso cup. Because if they do, the customer would see that a strong fits into the small cup and would get suspicious that this is indeed NOT 2 shots, but 1.5 shots.
And here’s an ironic example of a white “strong” (perceived as double) espresso. It even has space for milk very comfortably in a SINGLE shot espresso cup!
Above single shot cup (with a strong shot inside perceived as double shot) versus the 8oz cup where Pret serves strong shots to hide how stingy it is. The 8oz cup is also used for Pret’s Flat White for the same price as Pret’s 12oz Latte/Cappuccino 😉
I drew a rough line where the “strong” espesso measures. And I measured it GENEROUSLY!
A larger cup gives the illusion that there are 2 or a double shot. A larger cup gives the illusion that they NEED a larger cup so that a “double” fits in, while a single shot cup holds 1.5 shot very comfortably, even with added milk!
And Pret again plays with psychology and customers’ self-doubt, who give Pret the benefit of the doubt. Even though a “strong” espresso in the larger 8oz cup looks pretty stingy, the customer assumes that because the cup is larger, it just seems stingy. Well, it truly IS stingy!
UPDATE 2023: Countless complaints on Pret’s coffee and Pret being named the worst coffee shop at one point:
TRUST your senses!
Again, Pret is not doing anything wrong or illegal, they just do what Pret does best: play with psychology and people’s assumptions.
If you doubt about the amount of espresso, go to any Pret, buy 2x single espressos and 1 strong espresso. So, get 3 drinks in 3 cups, 2 single espressos and 1 strong espresso.
The strong espresso will be served in an 8oz cup (unless they run out). Whatever cup you’ll get the strong espresso, ask the server for this same EMPTY cup, but don’t tell the server why.
Then pour the 2 single espressos into that same size (8oz) empty cup and compare the strong espresso 8oz cup to the 2 single espressos in the other 8oz cup.
And then go to Caffè Nero where you get a regular latte, cappuccino etc. with 2 shots by default and any brand who advertise AND serve double espresso without the BS terminology and psychology that Pret use to fool customers with since decades.
You can also do a different experiment. Ask for a “strong espresso in a single espresso (small) cup”. If the Team Member is new, he/she will order it the way you ask. But then then Barista (if they’re experienced) will refuse to make it in the single shot cup. You can then ask why not. The Barista/Team Leader/Manager will fight tooth and nail to avoid having to tell you that they don’t use a single shot cup for a reason. They may even lie, saying that the single shot cup is too small!
But you can ask them to do it anyway! They might do it or not. But if they do it in the single cup, you can then ask why a strong shot fits into a single shot cup etc. Again, they will fight tooth and nail to avoid telling you that it is in reality 1.5 shots or even less, not 2 shots. They probably will never tell you that to avoid longer discussions.
You can then ask how many grams a single shot of espresso has versus a strong shot, and do your calculations from there.
A former Pret Barista also confirms this about a “strong” DECAFF shot:
In my 10 years in Pret (mostly as a shop Team Leader/management) I had only ONE customer who knew about this. In a very calm but assertive way he specifically asked for: “TWO separate shots of espresso in one cup charged as a strong espresso, please“. He often had a cheeky smile while ordering, which I returned! No problem, sir!
My Manager hated that customer, but gave in as an exception. The customer was such a regular and VERY persistent on this, that we already informed any new staff member to accept his request before he even entered the shop. So, good luck to the rest of ya!
Finally, do the math yourself! If you have 1 cup of strong espresso every day for a year at Pret, plus minus holidays etc. Monday to Friday. You would get 360 cups of 1.5 shots versus 480 double / 2 shots. Meaning, you get 360 individual espresso shots vs. 480 individual shots. Probably less as you have to subtract holidays. But I just leave it at this over a 5 work-day week, 4 week month and 12 months year.
The mind-game is, you were “cheated” out of 120 shots of espresso annually, plus minus via psychology and terminology! And Pret would put the fault at you for making assumptions as they do not advertise double shots. And they’d be right!
That’s why the coffee margin at Pret compared to their food is through the roof! They make a sh!tload of money from coffee as the highest profit to any other product. And a cup of, let’s say latte, for companies like Pret including cup, lid, milk, labour etc. is no more then about 30p plus minus. That is also why I have always questioned HOW Pret’s coffee can be organic, because they get it so cheap.
Pret already informed an inquiring customer that their coffee isn’t fair-trade anymore. And to be frank, I simply don’t believe that Pret pays “sometimes” more than fair-trade as it’s claimed here in the Facebook response. It’s just typical Pret bla-bla and 99.9% of customers swallow everything Pret tells them. Really sad!
Bottom line, if Pret would advertise double or extra shot, but serve 1.5 shots, they’d get in legal trouble, at least with the Advertising Standards Authority in the UK that slapped Pret already regarding their “natural” food claim.
Ever wondered why the word “natural” has disappeared off all Pret’s signage and packaging? Here’s why, that was truly false advertisement: Pret A Manger – Ready to (ch)eat.
But with the “strong” espresso display, Pret’s not doing anything wrong or illegal. In other brands you’d get a full extra shot or 480 shots for the same additional 50p price (or whatever price it is now), as they advertise double or extra shot.
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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 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.
Please also see the MEDIA page for more.
Thank you for reading/listening.
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