Pret’s Pano Christou – Rags to Riches Story

Let’s see.

Pano Christou has his own story in how he applied for a job at Pret 20 odd years ago and was rejected. Some time later he reapplied and was accepted. He climbed up the “ladder” and was the shadow of Clive Schlee for a few years. As Schlee’s time was coming to an end after two customers died and the new owners JAB took over, Pano as UK Managing Director briefly stepped into a new role of COO that was created as a stepping stone to become the new CEO. The role of COO didn’t exist before that and doesn’t currently exist in Pret.

What Pano Christou is not telling people immediately is that he started in Pret as an Assistant Manager, having come from McDonald’s as a Manager. Managers from other companies always start as Assistant Managers in Pret. Never as a Team Member from the bottom and not as a shop Manager.

What people who have never worked at Pret don’t understand is that the structure in Pret is extremely complex and micromanaging. Pret advertises that 95% of Pret Managers have started at the bottom in Pret. Funny, because a few years ago the numbers were 80-something %. And yet, it should be normal that most, if not all Managers grow from within the company.

Pret’s career path is super complex.

If you REALLY start at the bottom on the shop floor or kitchen, you start at a little over minimum wage, but have to work for it 3 times over and have to wait YEARS to get a pay-rise.

It takes THREE position to even reach the Assistant Manager role that Pano Christou started with.

Team Member (and after 10-ish days Team Member Star – ignore that one, it’s just psychology!)

NEXT Level:

Barista or Hot Chef or Kitchen Team Member Trainer (in my time Pret had the role of Shift Runner between 2008-ish and 2015)

NEXT Level:

Team Leader (either Kitchen Leader or Floor Leader)

NEXT Level:

And THEEEEEEENNNN when you went through those “hurdles” you might have had a chance to become an Assistant Manager (mostly of the Kitchen, sometimes of the Floor).

Mind you, these positions, especially from Assistant Manager (AM) onward are very coveted of course! Staff get their elbows out and screw each other over for this position like in every job. Some even rise up the ranks via the bedroom. This you’ll expect in a law firm, and certainly politics and Hollywood, but a sandwich chain? Really? Alright!

What makes the AM position so attractive is that they delegate to the Team Leaders, who really do the hard work and run the shops, bossing the Team Leaders around and blaming them for everything. The AM is the filling of the sandwich between General Manager (GM) and Team Member (TM) bossing Team Members around and yet not being responsible. The AM isn’t as responsible as the General Manager (GM) is. Perfect spot to be in. Bossing people around, yet not being responsible. Pret within the company is known for having too many “leaders” who struggle for the top position while Pret top leadership enjoy throwing crumbs to them to fight over.

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NEXT

After Assistant Manager comes the General Manager (GM), then Group Manager responsible for about 4 – 5 shops in an area, then Operations (Area) Manager (or OPs) of about 10 -14 shops in an area, and then you just fly so high you forget where you came from! And here’s where it’s ALL about the money.

What is so attractive to the AM role is that this is where the money starts to flow and where people will have to “prove” if they belong to the ELITE of the top Management who reap all the harvest that the “slaves” below them labour for. And yet again, even the AM and GM still have to prove if they belong to the ELITE of the top leadership of Pret. And yet, GMs and AMs increasingly complain on Glassdoor and Indeed that their contracted hours (used to be 42.5 per week) now 35 hours p/w on the payroll, but they work at least 60 hours as unpaid overtime. GMs and AMs are as exploited as TMs are.

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When a staff becomes an AM, at least in my time and Pano Christou’s time, they got £500 from Pret to go shopping for business attire. Then they got £50 a month for the dry cleaning bill of their business attire, insurance, extra holidays, more quarterly bonus, SICK PAY (that’s a big one!), executive parties, a loan from Pret for annual travel which costs 10 months for a 12 month annual ticket … and a host of other benefits. This is pre-Covid of course. But I’m painting a picture of Pano Christou’s “rags to riches” (shop floor) beginnings in Pret.

Pano did not start on minimum wage plus a few pennies and working triple for it with a Team Leader or AM down his neck. He surely wore a Pret uniform for a month plus / minus to “experience” how it is to REALLY start at the bottom.

A £500 wardrobe and £50 a month to dry clean it, sick pay … and all the stuff they showered on you until you realized, you’d better get higher because the shop floor sucks!

In a nutshell, Pano Christou started at position number 4 on the shop floor, NOT at the bottom!

#1 Team Member

#2 Barista or Hot Chef or Trainer (or in my time until 2015 Shift Runner)

#3 Team Leader

#4 Assistant Manager (the real benefits and money start here 🏆🏆🏆 )

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A GM review, quote:

»Amazing in the beginning – showered with benefits and entitlements and opportunities to advance. Terrible once you see how horribly mismanaged and micromanaged the company is. Zero care for human beings and nothing but boosting sales and company growth.«

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And here again, yes Pret pays a little more than the competition, also because Pret has the kitchen production that are mini sandwich factories, and staff have to slave double and triple for it and don’t get a pay-rise in years! Pret has no choice to pay a little more because if they would pay McDonald’s wages NO-ONE would work at Pret as it is too micro managing, back breaking work, a bullying environment and very complex!

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Pret is very good in making simple things very complicated! So, the little higher wage is the carrot on the stick. It’s a trap to lure people into working at Pret and then they get stuck believing and hoping that “one day” it may get better … And when the carrot has shriveled up, staff are too exhausted to recognize the bullsh!t for what it is.

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etc. etc. etc. etc. ………

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Pano’s “popularity” on review sites and the legacy Clive Schlee leaves behind:

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From Rags to Riches, the Pret A Manger “Love Treatment”

“Lovingly” handmade … (… and brainwashed)

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Bonus: Pano Christou putting his Emotional Labour into effect to spill some numbers after the first lock-down in a leaked video I received from a Pret staff and have passed on to the BBC:

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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.

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Thank you for reading/listening.

©2017 – Present: expret.org


Interview:

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©2017 – Present: expret.org, poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org unless otherwise stated. All Rights reserved. Disclaimer.

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