Pret A Manger – “Corporate Mafia Company”

I start my post with the following concern:

As if Pret A Manger need more customers to die and get injured.

5 years after Natasha Ednan-Laperouse died and 4 years after Celia Marsh died:

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Link

I explain on my podcast in Part 01, Part 02 and Allergy Trial as part 3 why Pret was and continues to NOT care. Please pay attention to a particular Barbican Centre seminar I mention.

From the bottome up: Part 01, Part 02, Allergy Trial 03

More customers and the public have and still are realizing now how bad Pret really are. I refer to Pret as plural, not singular (Pret are vs Pret is), because there is a core group of people behind this company who detached themselves from the suffering of shops and workers. And this detachment affects customers.

A recent Facebook comment in July 2022 to one of Pret’s posts says it all:

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For people and audio reading programs who can’t read screenshots, a person commented to Pret, quote: »So glad you haven’t managed to pollute the Middle East with your corporate mafia company.« End of quote.

Pret is also increasingly getting bad press since more journalists seem to wake up now instead of doing free advertising for Pret with all the “slimey” articles. I talk about it on my podcast episode: Pret CEO Pano Christou’s 2021 pay-rise & millions in bonus after cutting staff pay.

When I first started writing publicly about Pret in May 2018, even before the two customer deaths became public later that year, I discovered Glassdoor and Indeed review websites that I didn’t even know about while working in Pret. I couldn’t believe my eyes in how blunt and angry some reviewers wrote about Pret because I experienced the same, if not worse.

I became obsessed and sieved through Glassdoor, Indeed and the Internet in general, on a search for others who know Pret as a toxic company that fooled the public for decades with a caring and ethical facade, while the total opposite is the case.

My all-time favourite former customer tweet that needs no further explanation:

Link to @betty_de_brazil’s tweet where she responded to customers’ call to boycott Pret after Pret made temporary pay cuts permanent.

In 2018 there was hardly any critique from customers. But I became obsessed with staff reviews and wrote a DAILY “Quote of the Day” with a chosen review I found. I expanded on the reviews, explaining what the reviewer means. I now stopped since 2019, and rarely check reviews anymore as I’ve made my point now!

But a few reviews I found from recently which I want to put here, as work conditions have worsened to an unbelievable level of carelessness by Pret and current CEO Pano Christou. Pret delayed paying staff TWICE this year under bogus excuses, the second time during the Queen’s Jubilee weekend knowing that the public would be distracted and banks closed on bank holiday Monday.

One staff on Instagram in early June 2022 after Pret delayed paying them announced to sabotage Pret by reducing food and service quality.

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The result of this AND of hugely understaffed and stressed shops becomes more and more visible. This mouldy sandwich was posted just two days ago:

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And many more complaints.

Food quality has decreased a great deal already during the pandemic with customers flocking to social media posting photos of mouldy sandwiches, even rat dropping on a baguette. Reports on food poisoning has also increased. The latest even from today 01. August 2022. I posted more photos on Pret food is not fresh. Check the dates of the posts.

Not only are shop managers pressured to cut labour, sending staff home when there’s a hint of a quiet time, leaving whoever is left to work in shops completely overstretched and exhausted. In the meantime CEO Pano Christou cut their pay so he and shareholders can get a raise and millions in bonus. So, staff morale is low. Workers cut corners to try and resist the slavery-type bullying to work harder and faster for less. Working overtime without pay has also been a big thing in Pret even before Covid. Wage theft is also huge in Pret from own experience and also from two class action lawsuits Pret settled in New York, repaying 4000 workers. I write about this in Wage Theft in Pret. But in the UK the legal system is different and often in favour of companies rather than poor workers.

I will post some recent review at the bottom of this page and want to just as briefly as possible (yeah right!) explain Pret’s mentality.

From my interactions with current CEO Pano Christou and what I read in his emails to shops when he was UK Managing Director under then CEO Clive Schlee, I perceived Pano NOT as a leader. Pano came from McDonald’s management, and for a while until I kept pointing it out on social media, has always said to the press that he started on the shop floor. This of course gives the impression to the public that he started at the bottom. But far from it! So, I keep calling out Pret’s bullsh!t.

While he started in shops alright, he actually started in position number 4 as an assistant manager (AM) with higher pay, more bonus, more perks, paid travel to fancy places with other management, quarter briefs with galas, free fancy food and booze etc. etc. One of the perks he got that all staff who move into management get, even assistant manager roles, is £500 from Pret to go shopping for business attire which they can keep. And then assistant managers and shop general managers (GMs) get £50 EVERY month for the dry cleaners. This may have changed since the pandemic, but I’m talking about the “rich” years in Pret. I write extensively about these perks and the difference of assistant management to team members in Pano Christou’s Rags to Riches Story.

Since I kept pointing this out, he now at least says that he started as an AM.

Pano was for years Clive Schlee’s shadow. All I saw of him in my 10 years in Pret was when he accompanied Clive to shops, silently standing next to or behind Clive. And the only correspondence I saw was when Pano kept writing weekly or monthly emails to shops in how much money Pret made, especially when Pret reached a new million pound mark. And he also wrote emails to shops to announce when a shop closed.

Those emails where the most ridiculous emails I’ve read from anyone in Pret’s leadership teams. Especially when I was bereaved and traumatized. I was a team leader and would sit in the office in the afternoon to do the ordering of stock or cash up tills when I saw an email from Pano come in starting with the words: »Dear shops … it is with great sadness that I have to announce …«

Reading just the first few words, panic overcame me and my heart stopped thinking, “who died?!” And then the sentence continued: »it is with great sadness that I have to announce that (such-and-such a) shop is closing down due to (whatever) reason …«

I had these mixed emotions of anger and complete ridiculous shock that he spoke about the closure of a shop as if someone died, and as if we low-wage overworked staff even cared! Of course part of my panic was also because I received the news of my brother’s death via an email! So, I was constantly on the edge about emails and bad news. But I didn’t give a toss if Pret made another million mark or closed a shop because we were treated like dirt and bullied. I didn’t care if shops closed or how much money Pret made. I had NOTHING from this except manager after manager and OPs managers cheating me out of hours, money and break promises.

On 01. July 2019 Pano Christou, who was then still the Chief Operations Officer, closed his Twitter account after I tweeted Clive Schlee’s retirement to the press, also pointing to Pano’s Twitter account. And Pano was the only Pret executive who blocked me. His former Twitter handle has been taken on by another Pano Christou from Canada a few months later.

The COO role by the way didn’t exist before and after as it was just a stepping stone for Pano to go from UK Managing Director (2018) to CEO (2019).

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Pano has his head in the sand with the current issues, despite increasing complaints on mouldy food, bad press, more staff speaking out etc. It’s like he feels invincible after Pret got away with so much, especially TWO customers having died and dozen plus injured.

Clive Schlee was more “attentive” to reputation issues. He bullsh!tted the public and staff as well, but he was more active in bullsh!tting everyone, while Pano put his head in the sand, “hides” on Linkedin and enjoys other business people kissing his butt all day long, telling him how awesome he is in Linkedin’s typical toxic positivity way. Pret also has a lot of favour and support by some journalists like Harry Wallop from the “independent” newspaper The Guardian, which I explain in above podcast episode I linked to.

Pano is used that Pret keep getting out of trouble, no matter how bad it gets. He is either delusional or really doesn’t care, but he certainly is not a leader.

Clive left with this legacy from staff:

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A customer on Twitter pointed out that Pano upon becoming CEO in September 2019 has work cut out for him. Pret then let Pano take over the Glassdoor CEO spot in July 2019 despite him becoming CEO in September 2019. Clive didn’t want any more poor scores I guess.

In August 2022 Pano continues the trend with staff:

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Staff review and also email me saying work conditions have become beyond bearable. I know how hard it is to work at Pret. It was already horrific in my time, long before the pandemic. But I can’t even imagine how it is now! And this is not to be excused with Brexit or Covid.

  • Skimming customers out of money in many ways like via the coffee subscription, apps, deals that Pret don’t honour under bogus “technical issues”;
    Placing donation devices very closely next to payment devices where customers in the rush and noise accidentally donate £5 to Pret’s “charity” (charity = tax breaks and brownie points with the public);
    Not serving complimentary items any more,
    Decreased product size
    etc. etc.
  • Under-staffing (has always been done, but is much, much worse now)
  • Resulting in longer queues and frustrated customers who let it out on the low-wage workers who are at breaking point while Pano Christou smiles to the bank
  • More work while still expecting the same and higher standards, and expecting high financial results
  • Ongoing bullying
  • Ongoing wage theft, delayed pay, cutting hours, not paying hours worked for
  • Leadership non-existent
  • HR don’t care (that’s a no-brainer after what I’ve been through)
  • Poor food and hygiene standards (mouldy food, pest issues, dirty shops etc.) due to lack of staff and
  • Low morale
  • It’s each to their own to survive
  • And so on …

I say it again, Pano Christou is NOT a leader. He is stuck in the old Pret way that has shown him that Pret get away with ANY- and EVERYTHING.

After what I survived in Pret with direct contact to the top leadership, Clive Schlee, HR, HQ personnel, Pret’s lies, cheats, theft etc. I FIRMLY believe Pret, as in the core group of Pret’s leadership team like Pano Christou, Andrea Wareham and David Carter from HR and a handful of others who worked there many years for high pay, they are a clique of overpaid executives who run Pret like an organization which to me does indeed resemble like a mafia organization that a person on Facebook pointed out to Pret.

It’s all about the few at the top getting the biggest cut of the cake while abandoning the “slaves” on the front-lines who make all this happen but break at the end of the day. And it shows a great deal of the arrogance of Pano and the executive team to KNOW about all the suffering and appalling food safety issues from social media posts and news articles, but continue to drain employees AND customers.

A really good tweet just from today that made my day knowing that more and more people are aware of how abusive Pret are:

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Some recent staff reviews I find noteworthy to mention here.

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Link to Indeed review.

Link to Glassdoor review.

This is review is worth quoting in full:

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Title: Company of hell

Pros
Company from hell where lying is the key to their marketing strategy.

Cons
Managers shout at us, cleanliness is non-existent, no recycling, expired food in the fridges, stress all the time.

Advice to Management
Shut down your modern slave factories where you rely on green washing to attract consumers! You are not a healthy company!«

End of quote. I underline every single word 150 million percent! And I cannot explain how many times I have literally cried when I was contacted by staff in despair telling me that Pret delayed pay again, or do cuts here and there, how broken down workers are who are still forced to pretend a happiness or not get mystery shopper bonus. And whatever else they write.

I have many regrets in life, have made many mistakes, but it is safe to say that is it hands down by miles my biggest regret having worked in this horrible company!

For more reviews, please just scroll through Glassdoor and Indeed yourself and also check my front home page.

To end this long blog post, I post again here what made my day when Loose Women presenter Nadia Sawalha had some stern words for Pret and called on her 500K+ Instagram followers to boycott Pret. I still tear up when I watch this as not many celebrities would speak out on behalf of low-wage workers.

Unfortunately her words fell on deaf ears with Pret. After this video keep playing to see how I chased itsu founder and Pret RE-founder Julian Metcalfe and Pret executives off Twitter. An anonymous person sent me the info that Metcalfe is in Jeffrey Epstein’s address book after the person saw my YouTube slide with Metcalfe’s deleted tweets, which I screen grabbed before he deleted. Metcalfe kept retweeting my tweets, but someone from Pret must have warned him who I am, he then deleted his tweets and Twitter account, but not before I screenshot most of it.

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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 witnessed by customers: 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.

NEW: Podcast.

Please also see the MEDIA page for which press articles and Pret “charity” announcements I influenced.

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Thank you for reading/listening.

©2017 – Present: expret.org


Interview:

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Unless otherwise stated or linked to, this website and all writings within this site are the property of expret.org and are protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws. Reproduction and distribution of my writings without written permission is prohibited.
©2017 – Present: expret.org unless otherwise stated. All Rights reserved. Disclaimer.

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