As Pret got off the hook yet again in the recent allergen trial in Bristol I want to highlight something important regarding training in Pret. I can only urge journalists again to go undercover for a longer time than a week to see for themselves how the training in Pret is really done! This has been my biggest frustration in Pret! I always trained especially new Team Members and was called away from training to go to the till and serve customers!
Shops train staff on their breaks and expect them to read training material in their free time at home or on their much needed breaks! During the shifts, they were expected to only work and serve customers.
I mention this because of what was heard at Bristol Crown Court, quote from the Sky News article:
»The employee – Roberto Rodriguez – failed to check the store’s allergen guide, which would have confirmed the sandwich did contain sesame, Bristol Crown Court heard. Instead, Mr Rodriguez allegedly checked a label on the fridge and told Ms Colnaghi – incorrectly – that sesame was absent.«
And, quote: »Mr Rodriguez looking at the shelf rather than the allergen guide “amounted to an error by the server”, he added.«
Prosecution, quote: »Ms Brunner told jurors that in an account he gave to the company, Mr Rodriguez appeared to believe he was following the company’s procedures during the incident.«
»But food safety expert Dr Belinda Stuart-Moonlight told jurors Mr Rodriguez was fully trained and had acted outside of Pret A Manger’s allergen procedures.«
Also, quote: »The court heard Mr Rodriguez no longer worked for Pret A Manger, had left the UK, and solicitors had been unable to contact him since 2019.«
Yes, it’s totally understandable that Roberto dived under and cannot be reached! I would have done the same because Pret made him responsible! But here’s the twist, in below interview (player at the very bottom of this page) at 1:13:22 I explain about the lack of training in Pret and that staff have to sign training records every 6 months without being properly trained. It’s a long interview I’ve had in March 2018, but skipping to 1:13:22 I highlight the lack of training and pressure to sign training records.
Staff are pressured to sign even when they’re not trained. Management of course will never openly encourage or admit this pressure, but the Team Member Trainer (TMT) with the blue belt & badge is supposed to train staff and AFTER the training the staff sign the records. But the TMT is also extremely swamped with work and is not given time to PROPERLY train staff. I have worked with many TMTs who had huge benches to do as the Manager cut hours so management and upper management get more bonus every quarter.
The TMT hardly ever was able to fulfill their job description of truly training people except how to quickly make sandwiches in the kitchen. Hence, the TMT feels the pressure to get back into the kitchen, to do their bench as kitchen staff are pressured and penalized when they don’t finish their benches at the strict time that is given. In turn the TMT pressures the staff to sign the training record of over a dozen items every 6 months without them being trained. Pret will never admit to this of course, but this is also systemic in Pret and I will try and find most of the Glassdoor and Indeed reviews on the complaint of lack of training, apart from my own experience throughout ALL of my time in Pret.
One poignant staff review is from a Manager from Edingburgh, but I can absolutely confirm that this happens in London and other locations, I speak from 10 years in Pret! This GM mentions that they are forced to cheat to bring results to the OPs who sits at home and pressures staff. HOW CAN staff be “fully” trained when shops are systematically under-staffed?!
And as I share my own experience of 10 years in Pret, for example on Linkedin, Sterling Crew, Chair of The Food Authenticity Network Advisory Board who writes favourably about Pret, has blocked me and threatened me. And even other critical voices he just disses and responds that there is the “court of public opinion”. He isn’t willing to 1. democratically discuss issues with people who have different opinions; 2. he silences free speech and 3. he completely ignores my experience on the shop floor in Pret and ALL the evidence I bring. Current and former Pret staff who KNOW Pret are disregarded and looked down upon!
Here’s only one of many reviews that the public ignores:
I only signed items I was trained in and refused to sign the things involving health & safety when I wasn’t trained. I also encouraged my colleagues to NOT sign anything they’re not comfortable with because if they sign while not trained, and something happens, it’s on their heads! So, it’s understandable that Roberto Rodriguez has dived under!
I had an Assistant Manager then “train” me with a horrible, angry attitude because I basically “forced” them to train me as I wouldn’t sign. And needless to say, I was never promoted. When I started at Pret, especially in my early months, I read on everything I could find regarding rules, rights, training material because Pret is VERY complex! Pret has an intranet system they call “Planet Pret”. When I read my employee manual many times I’ve read “… for more information please go to Planet Pret”. So, I did.
As I was very fast in my work and in our teams we worked effortlessly, often finishing the evening shifts at least 15 – 20 minutes before the end of our shift. I took the time to read on things on Planet Pret because I was not explained or trained. So, I trained myself and passed every knowledge on to my colleagues.
I came across a lot of information which was important to me at the time or stumbled on other issues that were just interesting, and some things that helped me years later. One such issue was when I’ve read that only the General Manager (GM) and of course the Maintenance Team were allowed to go on a high ladder to change a light bulb or something like that. Team Members, including Team Leaders were NOT allowed to get up on a high ladder for insurance reasons. We were of course allowed to use small step ladders with no more than 3 or 4 steps to stock up the highest fridge shelf etc. But not high ladders.
One day at 11am when shops are quiet after the coffee rush and before the lunch rush, I came to my shop to start my late shift. I saw a Team Member high on the high ladder fiddling something on the air conditioning on the ceiling. No-one stood by the ladder to hold it! I calmly went to him and asked him if could please come down the ladder. When he was down, I explained to him that he isn’t allowed to be on there that high as he isn’t covered under the insurance, should he fall off and injure himself and at worse become incapable to work. He’d be f****d! He was shocked to hear that and said that the GM asked him to take the air con screen off so he could clean it in the kitchen.
Needless to say, I was never the favourite of that GM. Maybe the GM didn’t know himself, as even GMs are not properly trained! But I also know that GMs at times ask TMs to do dodgy things, so when they get caught, it was the TMs fault! And the TM can never prove that the GM told him to do this or that. But because I had this piece of information I stumbled upon on Planet Pret a while before, I couldn’t just pass by and let the TM be on the ladder! And the Team Members whom I trained regarding the allergen guide behind the counter ALWAYS checked the allergen guide, or often they just passed it on to me. But they knew where to check because I TRAINED them! I am sure that if Roberto Rodriguez was trained in the allergen guide, he would have gotten the file and looked for sesame. Of course I can’t prove that, but from my 10 years in Pret, I can absolutely say that the training is appalling and I myself was often called away from training a colleague so we serve customers while the Manager and Assistant Manager sat in the office.
This is not here and there, this has been for my WHOLE 10 years in shop after shop after shop!
So, I wouldn’t be surprised if Roberto Rodriguez was NOT trained properly but made the mistake to bow to pressure and sign training records. Thus, he’s stuck, he can’t honestly say that he was NOT trained because Pret holds up Roberto’s training records which he signed! And he’s also is stuck because he feels ashamed that he signed the training records without being trained. It’s a lose-lose situation for Roberto and a win-win for Pret!
I was strong enough to withstand the bullying and pressure to sign training records without being trained. And I was known for taking health and safety extremely serious, like ALWAYS having fire exits clear and fire extinguisher free of chairs blocking it etc. But most Pret staff are young foreigners, very easily fear managed and they have no idea of the potential consequences.
To Roberto Rodriguez,
should you ever read this, if you have not been trained it was NOT your fault that you didn’t know where to check for the allergen! If you have NOT been trained, the mistake you’ve made was to SIGN that you have been trained!
To all current Pret staff and staff everywhere, do NOT sign training records unless you have been FULLY trained. Full stop! You will get in trouble in subtle ways, you won’t be your Manager’s or Leader’s favourite, but in the long run you are better off! The consequences of signing something that you can not vouch for, can be horrific. You will NEVER be able to prove that you were not trained and that you bowed to pressure to sign. It will be YOUR fault!
To all allergy sufferers and their loved ones, I cannot even begin to imagine the fear and stress you go through every single day when going grocery shopping or treat yourself to a restaurant meal! Food is necessary, it’s not a luxury that you can skip. I am still extremely devastated that two customers have died, several injured and warnings ignored. I am offended that Pret didn’t even inform us. It is a great offense to me personally as a former Team Leader whose job description included health and safety that Pret did not even inform us. There wasn’t even as much as a HINT to be more diligent with labelling or allergen. Absolutely nothing! This offends me, because I could have potentially been part also in endangering customers even while I took health and safety very, very seriously!
I write about the labelling mess that truly was all over the place as Ms Brunner told the jury. Please visit: Pret’s Labelling Commitment?
And I also write extensively about the week or two week seminar Pret did in the prestigious Barbican Center the year AFTER Natasha Ednan-Laperouse died, BUT this seminar was NOT about labelling or allergen!
Please visit: Pret A Manger – Kind? Honest? Generous?
And a collection of customer complaints on social media regarding mislabelling that still goes on in 2021:
Vegans and Vegetarians Eat Meat 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 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.
Thank you for reading/listening.
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