And as usual I can’t help thinking that Pret came up with some bogus slogans to BREAK their pledge (as single use packaging is cheaper – katchink!). I’m intrigued with what tricks and slogans he tried to fool the audience. And just like with Pret’s “natural” food claim which they had to stop, teir “ethical” facade, the exploitation and bullying of staff, their foodwaste etc. etc. etc. 9 out of 10 times the slogans on Pret walls, website, marketing is the complete opposite!
When I worked at Pret, even though we had 2 different bins for “recycling”, it all went into the same waste pick-up truck.
Pret must have done a trial for recycling, but it must have not been successful as I’ve never seen this type of bin in any of the 30+ shops I worked at in 10 years.
»The civic society described the mess that had been left on the street on the last Bank Holiday Monday as a “horrendous example of fly-tipping”.«
»“We’ve checked the rules and even one such bag of rubbish left on the street counts as fly-tipping, so that puts it into Cheltenham Borough Council’s domain as an enforcement issue.”«
»A Pret a Manger spokesman said: “At Pret, we are proud to be part of the communities where we have shops, and are disappointed to have fallen short of our own standards on this occasion. We are working with our waste management provider and team members to make sure this won’t happen again«
Well, what have we got here … (in chronological order)
UPDATE July 2022
And while on the subject of waste, I have written extensively on Pret’s food waste issues. Pret claim to have a “fleet” of cars picking up food each night. Pret do have a car like this or several, but a “fleet” of cars is leaning out the window. I’ve seen a car once on my day off during the day driving by in Trafalgar Square. But in my 10 years in Pret, having worked in over 30+ shops, I’ve never even ONCE seen a car like this pick up food. Not once!
Pret rely on unpaid volunteers to pick up food. If no-one picks it up, it gets wasted in its packaging to landfill. The Pret Foundation car is window dressing more than anything. Of course they drive food to places, but there is no nightly pick-up, and it cannot be coincidence that in 10 years I’ve never seen this car pick up food from any of the 30+ shops I worked in.
Pret also SELL out-of-shelf life cooled down hot food via food app, again, supposedly for the Pret Foundation. Yet, before the pandemic hit Pret’s profits, they were STRICT for us to NOT give out hot food even for free to charity due to safety issues. I got told off by a manager once for handing out hot food when the charity volunteers arrives to pick up food. Now they sell it for cheap under the “charity” umbrella. When it comes to money, health and safety out the window! I write about this extensively in Pret’s Health & Safety Hypocrisy.
Pret always pretends to be so safety concerned, yet, don’t forget they ignored TWO customer deaths and over a dozen further allergen injuries before this became public. I speak about this on my podcast expretcast from the bottom up, Part 01 Ongoing Labelling Issues, Part 02 Ongoing … and Allergy Trial 2021. I draw especially attention to a Barbican seminar which is very important to mention.
A former staff member also laughs about this:
Another former staff:
Another former staff member who got fired for starting a union:
When customers or members of the public observe food-waste as it happens, and the below screenshots are only a fraction of what I pasted into my other post on food waste in Pret.
Repeated food waste ignored by Pret:
Bleach poured over food:
Amy Sharpe from the Mirror went Undercover in Pret after I asked her to see for herself on issues:
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.
Regular readers who know my blog know that I mainly write about Pret A Manger staff issues, systemic workplace bullying, exploitation etc. My own story is at the bottom of this page in the audio player interview on a podcast.
I read a lot of comments from environmentalists and vegans who do their activism on plastic pollution and animal welfare. When I mention how Pret staff are treated behind the smiley facade, many respond along the lines of “yes, but … plastic … but vegan … but ….”
It amazes me how people separate people from waste and animal issues. Yes, of course we all have our area of activism, I campaign mainly on employment issues, but I’m also working on being more environmental friendly, eat less meat already etc. And no, any vegan out there, don’t judge me regarding eating meat. I understand the passion behind these campaigns. But from an employment perspective, people are going in circles when they go on Twitter complaining to Pret that a Barista was handed a reusable mug for a latte, but the Barista used a paper cup to measure the coffee in, poured it into the reusable mug, and then threw the paper cup away.
Pret then responds in a generic way, with their usual copy and paste sentences of ,”oh no” and “which shop this was from”… pretending to be surprised and care. Thus, the customer gets off Pret’s back, assuming it’s just a stupid Barista not having gotten the memo!
Reality is still too much for most customers to handle.
Pret A Manger, like many large corporations are a profit-driven, now multi-billion pound company under private equity. Low-wage staff are neither trained nor does Pret care to educate and tackle the waste problem. The public for most part just assume that it is a long way for Pret to get on top of this, while in reality waste is cheaper. And it is cheaper to not employ more staff to work on dishes. And it is cheaper to keep work spaces small and customer areas expanded for more profit, thus not creating room for dishwashers and stock room for crockery, metal cutlery etc. It’s always about money. Period.
People ignore that the plastic ocean has a lot to do with big corporations dumping plastic waste into the ocean, that was supposed to be shipped to other countries for recycling. Dumping plastic waste into the ocean is, again, cheaper than bringing it to recycling facilities in those countries.
Apart from above article, I can recommend to watch the documentary The Change by a group of students who started to scratch the surface on the ship waste dumping. These guys made an experiment of living for one week completely plastic free, and how challenging that is. I only found the trailer, but if anyone can find the whole film, I can only recommend it:
These students only started to scratch the surface on the plastic-dumping ships. And it makes sense of course that it is not you and I, sitting on the beach with a cocktail, sipping through a plastic straw, and after we finished the drink we threw the plastic straw into the ocean! Nah, that’s not how the countless tons of plastic ended up in the ocean. We only try in our frivolous way to aim for bio-degradable straws and bring our own reusable mugs.
Pret and other multi-billion pound companies just do these ridiculous little things like paper straws as a smoke screen and whatever else the government order firms to do. And the reality continues, keeping the rest of the business swamped with waste, and no-one’s waking up, yet. Yes, of course every little helps, and every little start is a start. But Pret A Manger and other large chains CAN implement change much faster than they do! Believe me, I know how fast Pret can change things IF it affects their profit! Believe me! I have seen it! And reading Pret’s Tweets, that over many months customers complain about plastic cutlery, and then they complain about the wooden fork, and then the flat soup spoons etc. And the wooden cutlery disappears again, and then it’s being re-introduced again … and the chaos continues! Inconsistent, inefficient, ineffective.
Plastic cutlery and napkins were removed, doors were closed with signs on them to save energy when Extinction Rebellion hit town, then when Extinction Rebellion left, the cutlery was moved back to the bin station customer area and the doors were opened again.
There’s is a chaotic mess with plastic vs. wooden cutlery, back and forth. And no-one is staying with it and digging deeper.
But back to the people issue. I write extensively and collect staff reviews on how Pret really treats their employees behind the happy facade. I give many examples with screenshots of what staff say in anonymity in:Caught in the Act Bullying in Pret.
And it is beyond me how we can separate people from issues like animal welfare and the waste problem. Pret staff get bullied to work fast for profit. If they don’t function, they get fear managed, all while faking a smile to not lose their job. If they don’t make friends with management they get fired fast. It’s the same elbow mentality like in big business.
This exhausts staff, makes them depressed, I was suicidal after being bullied during bereavement as Pret doesn’t want any “inconvenient” employees. Again, my story in the audio player at the bottom of this page.
Pret staff have thrown away brand new food products still in its boxed packaging to sabotage their bullying managers and ruin managers’ quarterly bonuses. Baristas using paper cups to measure liquids for reusable cups. I explain in my blog postDaily Food-waste in Plastic to Landfill why staff waste so much food. Shops are understaffed to maximize profit, staff are not paid for overtime.
If a company is only concerned about the profit margin and exploit their staff, save money on anything they can save on, the public remains fooled because change can come VERY quick if that is their priority.
If staff are exhausted, depressed and remain in low position and low pay even after years of employment, they stop caring. And this in turn reflects on the waste and even on animal welfare, as milk is wasted unnecessarily. Food, eggs, meat are wasted DAILY unnecessarily, because companies like Pret overproduce to raise the profit. And even with the humongous amount of waste every day, they make hundreds of millions of pounds annually.
Former CEO Clive Schlee pocketed £30 million on BONUS alone! Add to that all the other top leaders and share holders wages and bonuses! Even with all the waste, this is very lucrative and all the customer complaints on Twitter are a joke. Pret just gives their generic replies, and people swallow it so easily and get excited for a cheap free cookie or coffee. And then Pret raise the prices because someone needs to pay for all the freebies, and it won’t be Pret! I explain further in Free Coffees in Pret.
People don’t understand that things are connected!
If employees are treated with respect, reimbursed properly for their labour including paid overtime, have a saying in decisions etc. they will have the strength, motivation, resources and care to help tackle environmental issues.
I know Pret staff, I know how they talk behind customers’ backs and make fun of the vegan issue and waste problem. Low-wage workers who are upset at the cockiness of snobby customers. Employees who have no strength left to care. Staff suicides I continue to ask for independent investigation.
Two customers have died in Pret, a third incident was nearly fatal and numerous warnings ignored by Pret. And the public for the most part still live in LaLa Land. If Pret that didn’t act on customer deaths and ONLY slowly implementing change with the labelling BECAUSE the deaths became public, you are kidding yourself to believe that Pret cares about the environment!
Other companies can do it, like Black Sheep Coffee and many independent businesses. But people want to believe the fairy-tale that is Pret A Manger with their sweet-talk and little paper straws and wooden cutlery, while other waste issues remain.
How Black Sheep Coffee and other environmentally conscious firms treat their staff I don’t know, but my point is that it is possible to change the waste problem if this is truly a company’s priority.
And my main point is that if staff are treated well, they will care for the waste issue, animal welfare etc. So, if people want to continue to believe that Pret is an “ethical” company, please scroll down to the screenshots of this blog entry again.
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 two articles in the Scottish Left Review: 1. “Late Night Girl’s” Story with Pret and 2. Pushing Back Against Pret.
Thank you for reading/listening.
I’d like to respond to a request on Twitter for me to delete a Tweet regarding food safety. I respond via my blog, as I want to avoid posting 50 million Tweets to explain.
The thread is about food donation via apps. It’s a great way to safe food from being wasted. It’s an increasing way in many countries to tackle the food waste crisis, and it’s really amazing to see this trend grow.
Something caught my eye in the top right photo which I mentioned in the Tweet.
Initial Tweet which since my response has been DELETED:
Link to deleted Tweet. Side note, if Laura was so right about giving out (cooled down) hot food, why do they delete Tweets?!
On the top right photo (by @Laurahodges_) are cups of soups. I mentioned about Pret not giving out hot food due to health and safety reasons with the temperatures.
I was informed that as of recently Pret does give out hot food, as long as it is picked up within a 2 hour window.
I explain further below, underneath the Tweet screenshots:
The “shocking” response is about the daily food waste in plastic to landfill that I posted about in Pret A Manger Food Waste. The daily food waste to landfill is a reality that Pret wants to sweep under the carpet.
Just some of the photos and Tweets from customers, the problem is much larger as I had to waste for years, as well as Amy Sharpe, a reporter who went undercover into Pret after reading my blog and my suggestion to go undercover to see for herself:
First of all this seems to be a new thing that hot food can now be donated. Pret might have changed it after customers complained on Twitter about all the food-waste they see and me collecting those complaints.
Here’s a Tweet that Pret wrote in February 2019 about hot food NOT being donated to charity:
I am being asked to remove a Tweet as this won’t look good on whatever is being portrayed to the public in regards to food safety, as Pret changed this policy, probably to avoid further bad press about their daily food waste that customers keep witnessing.
I worked for TEN years in Pret, and for most of these 10 years I was a Front of House Team Leader (Floor Leader – FL), which in Pret is like a mini-manager with lots of responsibilities. Team Leaders do the most work and get the blame for anything Managers don’t want to take responsibility for. Health and safety is one of THE responsibilities of Team Leaders. I took that very serious and was known for throwing out products that where of low quality or “off” as instructed by company standards. I was not a favourite of my bosses as I followed instructions while still helping to bring profit.
So, Managers were always in a pickle with me. For one, I did my job extremely well, even under difficult circumstances and in bereavement, helping to raise the profit in each shop I worked at. BUT I also followed standards and didn’t bow to pressure to do dodgy things to avoid waste.
One such incident was when I helped out in a shop that failed in health and safety, having to bring the shop back up to standard. As I was the Team Leader in charge of this shop one Friday evening closing shift, this shop was closed during the weekends. A Team Member was cleaning and closing the kitchen including washing the vegetable for the next business day’s production. Pret has the procedure that once the vegetables are washed with the chlorine solution, it should be used within 2 business days from THE DAY the veg is washed. So, if I wash vegetables today 12th Oct. 2019, the expiry date should be tomorrow 13th October at the end of that business day! In the case of Friday, the veg should be used or discarded on Saturday.
Most shops wash the veg towards closing time at about 5pm, and most if not all veg is used the next day. So, all is in the green. Part of my job as a Team Leader was to sign off the “product labels” for the ingredients. The person who closed the kitchen prepared the label for me to sign AFTER he washed the veg. But I couldn’t sign for the label as the shop was closed over the weekend, meaning the 2 days would be passed by Saturday closing time, and Monday would be the FOURTH day, with the veg being soggy.
I called the Operations Manager (OPs – area manager) as all Managers were in the big quarterly meeting and informed her that I need to waste all the veg as I cannot transfer it out to other 7 day (Mon – Sun) shops, without any vehicle and no Managers around to agree to take the veg for Saturday’s production. The OPs via text just said to me after I asked if I should throw the veg out, she just said: “Do what you know is right”. She tried to get herself out of responsibility by neither telling me to do the right thing by wasting, nor to do the wrong thing to keep the veg.
So, I did what I knew was right according to what I was taught and wasted numerous kilograms of vegetable!
A few days later I saw an email between that OPs and the Food Safety team, sending the email to the area of shops, asking if I did the right thing. I kept the email for my protection, which said that I DID the right thing, as I was constantly being targeted for every little thing to get me to fail (I explain in the audio player at the bottom).
The OPs being insecure, if what I did was right, as it cost a lot of money, asked for confirmation with HQ. And it seems that I again was the only one who followed procedure, whereas most shops extend and stretch products to avoid waste and not be in a clinch with management. And the procedure was changed then for a Team Member to come in earlier on Mondays to wash vegetables.
The Email between the OPs and HQ Food Team (I smudged out the names):
What Managers did then, they kept me as the Team Leader doing all the hard work, but never promoted me, as I didn’t want to do the short cuts for their bonus. It’s an open secret that Managers subtly coerce Team Leaders into doing wrong things like stretching products etc. And if getting caught, the Manager is off the hook, and the Team Leader gets fired as they can never prove that the Manager coerced them manipulatively to do dodgy things. And at the same time, Team Leaders should refuse to do short cuts, even if it means they’re never promoted. If a Team Leader does the dodgy things and never gets caught, they are promoted as they do everything requested of them. It always had this little “Mafia” or gang feel to it.
I worked in a dozen Pret shops that were my main shops, and worked in even more stores, helping out for a day or a week. I closed many, many shops for many years! Regarding food waste, when the charity pick-up did not happen or we had no manpower and time to apply the allergen labels for charity; when pick-up did happen, the instruction was always to NOT give out hot food as well as no sushi (raw fish / rice), when Pret stocked sushi. Basically, any high risk foods were to be wasted.
For 10 years, I and my Teams and my Team Leader colleagues were instructed to NOT give out hot food to charity or anyone picking up the food for charity / homeless people.
The reason we were explained is, that due to the temperature fluctuation, the food can go off quicker and wouldn’t be safe for people to eat.
Hot food in Pret is kept (or rather is “supposed” to be kept!) for 2 hours in the hot cabinet. This is for quality purpose as the food becomes dry, stale and hard after 2 hours, as well as not being as hot anymore. But due to under-staffing and pressure to have products on the shelves, staff cheat and “stretch” the hours by marking on the lid an hour or two hours longer. But the food is still in the HOT cabinet.
In this below Tweet from Pret it’s very clearly marked. In this case the porridge lid has 10 o’clock marked, meaning the porridge was prepared at 8am and then marked for 2 hours. But at times a staff member marks a new lid to let’s say 11am or noon, and replaces it, throwing away the earlier lid. This they do if they ran out of porridge/soup etc. to keep products for the Mystery Shopper bonus and to minimize waste.
Hot food being given out AFTER the 2 hour HOT cabinet storage fluctuates the temperature, and this is when it can become tricky with health and safety. The main thing that can happen to people eating a luke-warm or cold soup after it being heated (or rather RE-heated) is they get, in plain language, diarrhea. For a homeless person on the streets, this wouldn’t be very pleasant.
I want to mention as well that the hot food, particularly the soups are re-heated at least once. Pret soups are produced in factories and come ready cooked in bags to the shops. In the shops the bags are then re-heated in water-baths or if in a hurry put into the microwave. This is then the second time the soups are heated. There is NO cooking in pots and pans in Pret kitchens! Sometimes, due to lack of time, lack of staff and lack of soup products, the soups are even heated a THIRD time, even though staff are not allowed to do this!
For example, if a soup bag is still sitting in the hot water-bath unopened at the end of the business day, staff are supposed to WASTE the bag which holds 6 cups of soup. But due to the Manager always pressing to minimize waste for his/her bonus, staff cheat and let the bag cool down and store it back in the fridge for the next day to be heated up AGAIN.
They are not allowed to do this, but it’s an open secret that this keeps happening and it’s only a point of not getting caught. So, potentially soups are heated three times, but for sure always two times. Plus, if a person gets a soup or other hot product from the charity run, they may heat it up as well, for sure for the third time and maybe even fourth time!
Thus, if a person eating the soup gets any health issues, they can never trace back what happened or if the hot food was re-heated multiple times etc. I often got the “evil eye” from my bosses when I threw out unopened soup bags that were left-over in the water bath as I 1. didn’t want any health and safety issues for customers and staff, and 2. it wasn’t worth losing my job for Manager’s bonus by decreasing waste in a dodgy way.
And just today I saw a Tweet to a video of how Panera Bread heats their Mac & Cheese. Panera Bread is also owned by JAB Holdings that bought Pret last year. But this is exactly how the water-baths look like in Pret:
One recent review also states clearly that food is not fresh and comes in ready cooked from factories:
Link (Glassdoor increasingly wants people to log in to see reviews that’s why I do screenshots).
So, I’m being asked to delete a Tweet, as it is supposedly false information. I speak from 10 years in Pret, having seen and witness countless times how food is handled and mishandled! The new “training” Laura Hodges has received may be due to the list of food waste that I’ve posted and that has outraged many people. I know how Pret works, I know their tricks, traps and ways in fooling the public.
My own story I share in below audio player in an interview on a podcast based in California.
I will not delete my Tweet and Ms. Hodges has already re-posted. I will not be silent and hush about what is going on behind the shiny PR[et] facade on various of issues. TWO Pret customers have died, a third nearly fatal incident and numerous ignored warnings on allergen labelling by Pret. I will not be silent nor delete. I also posted about the ongoing issues of mislabelling in Pret: >>> When Vegetarians Eat Ham
Ms. Hodges blocked me soon after. I have no concern about being blocked or reported.
I will always speak out after TWO customers have died (while I worked at Pret responsible for health and safety, never being told about it!). And Pret only started acting when deaths became public. I will also continue to write from a behind the scenes perspective on staff treatment and the forced happiness staff have to portray for Mystery Shopper cash incentives and to avoid fear management.
Clive Schlee, now former CEO of Pret “retired” with poor scores on Glassdoor & Co. for a reason while remaining as a non-executive Director in the background:
New CEO, Pano Christou:
Glassdoor Review: “Worked into the ground without empathy”:
Incomplete list of questions weekly Mystery Shoppers are tasked to test staff on, no matter how staff feel, if bereaved, depressed, even suicidal:
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.
To anyone concerned about food waste in plastic to landfill, please don’t be fooled by Pret’s generic question on social media to DM on “which shop” this is from and they’ll have a word with the manager bla bla. Pret only want customer data for future marketing.
This is bogus, as Pret is very aware, and staff are then told to waste AWAY from customers’ glance. I wasted countless bin bags of what can be seen below due to lack of staff, time etc. Also, there are food bins in Pret kitchens and the shop behind the counter, BUT due to constant lack of staff, there is NO WAY staff can separate all the food from its packaging! £9.75 per hour paid workers are NOT paid for overtime, yet are always manipulated and pushed to work longer without pay.In fact Pret manipulate staff, give them very little time to finish tasks and then pretend they didn’t work fast enough. Then workers are manipulated and fear managed to work overtime for free.
Staff are so exhausted, and they stop caring. Pret settled TWO class actions in New York on WAGE THEFT having had to repay 4000 workers, while the same problem in the UK exists, but staff never have the idea to organize and sue.
New York staff review September 2019 “always getting sued” and expired food:
I can only say again and again for anyone to go undercover for more than a month into different shops and countries to see how vast this problem is. The below photos from London, New York, Chicago etc. is just the tip of the iceberg.
Pret keep saying they have a “fleet” of cars picking up food each night. The former staff laughs for a reason! In my 10 years having worked at Pret in over 30 shops, often in the evening, I have NEVER EVER even once seen an above Pret Foundation Trust car pick up food. NEVER! I did see this car one time during my day off when I walked through Trafalgar Square. But I simply don’t believe that Pret has a “fleet” of cars.
This car is window dressing. I’m sure it does some useful transportation to supply larger events, but picking up food each night is done by unpaid volunteers from charities themselves. If no-one picks it up, it gets wasted in the bin to landfill.
29. March 2021: Some staff now put Pret food-waste by street waste bins, away from Pret shops to avoid getting caught again wasting food. And Pret plays dumb asking “which shop” this was from, knowing very well it’s normal, just make sure to not get caught!
A Pret staff member’s Facebook post on over £500 worth of food waste, from ONE shop, in ONE day. That staff member went out (unpaid!) to distribute to people. The highest waste I’ve ever logged was around £500 as well! This staff member doesn’t realize that Pret doesn’t care where the food goes, and certainly not that the staff member distributes the food without getting paid over-time.
UPDATE December 2020
Pret always pretend to be so safety concerned, yet, don’t forget they ignored TWO customer deaths and over a dozen further allergen injuries before this became public. I speak about this on my podcast expretcast from the bottom up, Part 01 Ongoing Labelling Issues, Part 02 Ongoing … and Allergy Trial 2021. I draw especially attention to a Barbican seminar which is very important to mention.
When customers or members of the public observe food-waste as it happens, and the below screenshots are only a fraction of what I pasted into my other post on food waste in Pret.
Repeated food waste ignored by Pret:
July 2020 Pret opposite Olc Vic theater in London, I myself took this photo:
The above are only a few of the photos customers bother to go on Twitter to complain. The problem is much larger as I wasted I don’t know how much food in 10 years, not to mention how food is wasted in the kitchens! The main problem is over-production where staff are stressed, pushed and bullied to produce huge amounts in little time… and a lot of it for the bin! And CEO Clive Schlee pockets £30 million after the JAB purchase. So, yes, Pret is desperate to uphold an image of “charity”. But so many issues are way out of balance. Not to mention how customer deaths and ignored warnings were dealt with until this became public… not to mention how staff are really treated behind the scenes and forced to smile for an extra £100 via the weekly Mystery Shopper visits. Or if the Mystery Shopper comments that staff didn’t smile, fear management is used and the threat of job loss as the bonus can be lost…
UPDATE: December 2019
Only one of many such Tweets by a customer who wants more variety. If you click on the photos, tell me if this is really not enough choice. The demands for more choice results in more waste. The customer calls these “empty” shelves! Count the products in there, as well as the variety!
In above photos I counted a variety of 25+ products and around 105 products at least. Sure, it’s 1pm and according to Pret standard they are OUT OF SELECTION, which would lose them Mystery Shopper bonus big time. BUT, in few minutes the shelves are filled again with a lot of products. By the end of the day there will have been an over-production and high waste again. If a shop is out of selection at 1pm, this means they are understaffed OR if they have enough staff, they have a lot of new people who are still learning the products and cannot work fast yet.
Pret staff reviews (reality):
Former TM review from 18. Oct. 2018. The “55 Yes” vs. “0 No” votes speak for itself.
UPDATE: April 2019 further below from the UK and the USA of Pret staff throwing food out even while a shop is still open. Again, if staff are overworked, underpaid, bullied (collected here) … they stop caring and sabotage the company, and unfortunately with it also those in need. I learned from a former Pret General Manager, working for the competition that when he was a Team Member and his manager bullied him and the team, they would throw whole food packages like cakes etc. out while doing the morning delivery checks. They were so angry at the manager that they threw NEW food items straight into the bin that came from the food supplier. They didn’t even mark it off the invoice because they wanted to created a huge unaccounted for the manager to sabotage the manager’s bonus.
As customers again keep going to Twitter with photos, videos and comments about seeing bags of food waste from Pret, instead of this being donated to those in need I want to explain why this is happening more than people realize and Pret wants to admit. I speak from 10 years as former Pret staff throwing countless bin bags of food away!
The Sunday Mirror photo. The most bags like this I remember wasting into the rubbish room at one time was 3 (THREE) bags in one night! Also, because some waste companies pick up rubbish in the morning, bags like this are stored in the rubbish room over night adding to the risk of pest, mice etc. being drawn in, especially over the weekend when there is no rubbish pick-up in some stores depending on the waste company, council etc.
Quote from Amy’s report: “At the end of the shift I apply allergen stickers to leftover sarnies, salads and pots. These are given to the homeless as part of the commendable Pret Foundation scheme. But there are never enough stickers and a bagful of perfectly edible food is binned each day.” (I underlined).
A pretty bleak and stern warning to Pret concerning donating food to the wrong place, as huge amounts are binned every day and donating to wrong places is not helping people to be self-sufficient. Worth watching the video in the Tweet:
Link to video message for Pret. This also shows how production is set too high, staff are stressed with doing too many products for the bin! But as long as businesses like Pret make their millions (CEO pockets £30 million for himself alone!) this waste issue will continue.
In recent years Pret has been one of the trailblazers in giving left-over food each night to charity and people in need. But Pret is not the only one, they are just at the forefront “PR-ing” about it loudly. In the 1990’s I volunteered for a charity and once a week we were one of the places that Boots gave left-over sandwiches to us for distribution. Our day was Wednesday from the charities in the area (Notting Hill). This was in the mid 90s, 7 years after Pret started business in 1983 in Hampstead, was shut and restarted in 1986 in Victoria.
In my 10 years in Pret I don’t even want to think back on the amount of bin bags of food we had to throw away. In the beginning the reason for this waste was that at times charity did not pick it up or some shops did not have a Friday pick-up for example. Of course this could have been avoided by having teams go out to bring the food to places or call other neighbouring areas, as each area has their charities appointed for each shop. Some shops have 2, 3 or more charities who have their delegated day for the pick-up, like my charity had Wednesdays in the 90s with Boots.
But sending out the closing team sounds good on paper, but Pret staff are so swamped with work and exhausted by the end of the day to even bother bringing food out. And staff are not paid over-time while they are being over-worked, understaffed, given so many tasks to do. I was one of the few team leaders who was very organized and helped my teams instead of sitting in the office as leaders like to do. So, we often managed to finish on-time. But still then, we were extremely exhausted to do anything extra “on the house” after 9 or 10pm, while our bosses didn’t care if we worked longer unpaid. Managers in every shop like to cut hours to maximize profit and management bonuses. This in turn puts a humongous strain on staff and they are too exhausted and stop caring.
One Pret employee puts this in clear words: “Advice to Management –Either stop cutting hours or stop giving teams a ridiculous amount of tasks to complete.“
I can relate a lot to these reviews! It always seemed like managers enjoyed burdening down staff, while they sat in the office or left early to go home, not to mention not working on weekends. And the next day when tasks were not done, because team members were swamped unnecessarily with work, understaffed, exhausted, managers held their sermon in the office, telling off mainly the team leader and the team at times as well. It was a lose-lose situation and the point came that I had enough of this and sent my teams home on the dot of when our shift was supposed to finish. After having given overtime many times without pay I drew the line and suffered the consequences of not being the manager’s favourite.
But I didn’t care. My priority was the team’s welfare who most of them have families at home and with the shift finishing at 9 or 10pm they often hardly saw their kids. I made sure the most important tasks like health and safety, cleaning etc. was done, and other not vital issues I left undone. This at times helped because some managers then gave us an extra team member or allowed me to pay my team the extra time, because my managers knew how I worked, that my teams were not lazy, but gave their best every time.
And labelling food for charity started in 2015 or 2016, I can’t remember, but this added to the work load while not getting extra staff to finish all the work load Pret demands. So, with the labelling issue for charity I had to decide to keep to the very end. If we managed to finish important tasks we labeled the food. Many times we didn’t even have enough labels printed, or couldn’t find on the computer where the labels were for printing, or other organizational issues we had no time to solve. If we couldn’t label, I was instructed to throw the food out, even when charities came by and demanded the food! I had to refuse, apologize and explain how swamped we were with tasks but low on staff and not paid overtime. I only managed to give the persons picking up the food, if they wanted to eat something then and there where they had access to the allergen information in the shop.
In the beginning of labelling we would give unlabelled food to charity, but some charities would then complain to Pret HQ that the products weren’t labelled or partly labelled when we ran out of time or labels. Other charities got angry with us for NOT giving out unlabelled food. It was a constant struggle between the fronts. So, I made the decision that if my boss said to not give food out, they have to take it up with management. Little did I know WHY this was so important to label, as we were not informed of the two customers having died from unlabelled allergen hidden in products. There wasn’t even as much as a hint to be more vigilant with the labelling, except to not give food out to charity unlabelled. That was all, but no explanation as to why because there wasn’t any labelling for customers. It didn’t make sense at the time until when the deaths became public.
But to work overtime a few minutes here and there without pay was not the issue for me, especially when emergencies happened like flooding, power-cut, accidents etc. And it was no issue for my teams either. If this was the exception it’s perfectly fine, but in Pret this was the rule and I had to draw the line. If an employer doesn’t care for their workforce, the workforce will not care for the company. Exceptions are always okay, but not exploitation and constant issues like this. And the above review is spot on as I experienced this for 10 years in shop after shop and was one of the very few to draw the line as my teams were always happy when I ran the shift as they knew they’d finish in time!
The lawsuit of 4000 Pret workers in the USA shows this as well: “Pret A Manger Settles Overtime Wage Claim” and the long list of Pret Staff Complaints I collected from various sites unto one page linking to each review. And Selected Quotes that really brings the stressful environment home which I experienced shop after shop with the last 3 years traumatically in bereavement.
But the issue of food being wasted each night, it is a bigger problem than Pret wants to admit. The only way for this to be minimized is for staff to be paid overtime or have enough team members on the shop floor who are TRULY trained, not just on paper, covering for all the tasks Pret expects.
A list of customer complaints, some with photos and video and some Updates on recent Tweets:
This issue Pret responds by claiming: “this is very concerning to hear as we donate our unsold cold food to the homeless throughout the UK. Can you DM us with which shop this was in and some more information on whether it was hot or cold food?”
First of all the constant repeat to get customers away from the public eye into private DM with the question of which shop while Pret knows EVERY shop does that. And to ask if this was hot or cold, Pret knows very well that “egg rolls from the COUNTER” are cold products! But this “pret”-ense (sorry, can’t help it!) of not knowing is bogus, because Pret sets the time for these breakfast baguettes in the morning as for 2 hours of shelf-life.
These baguettes are marked on the back from the time they are made in the kitchen to the time staff have to waste them as the quality decreases and the baguette becomes soggy when not refrigerated. If the OPs manager happens to come by, they often check the time of the product and the team leader responsible for the shift gets in trouble if the items are still on sale while the time has passed the expiration “hour”.
In my 10 years we were never ever instructed to keep them until the evening for charity. Never! They are supposed to be thrown without packaging into the green food waste bin behind the counter or in the kitchen. But again, because team members are so busy and stressed, they just chuck it in the regular bin. I managed many times to waste it into the food waste bin, but even while I worked very fast, I didn’t always manage and at times also threw it into the regular bins. It is just plainly impossible to follow the ridiculous amount of demands Pret sets, especially when managers also cut staff to maximize profit and with it their bonus. It’s always and forever just about money for management! Full stop!
The next Tweet is a terrible example of how staff stop caring and even sabotaging innocent people in need. I have not witnessed this in any of my shops that teams poured
on food to make it uneatable, but I have heard countless stories of how staff sabotage the business because the managers did not care for their teams. I heard from a former manager that when he was Team Member, he saw at times how teams threw whole new packs of cakes and other food items in the bins during the morning delivery checks, to sabotage the managers bonuses: high waste (unaccounted items) = less bonus.
I personally have witnessed staff throwing Pret brochures away, that give employees steps and values to follow. But because many managers are the worst examples in portraying any values, and teams realize that if the top leadership does not care, it trickles down to lower management. Managers pressured with targets, overwhelmed, not well trained, and the worst being complacent; teams become disheartened and at times throw these booklets away with an angry smirk and whatever else they do in anger or to sabotage managers’ bonuses.
But to destroy food by pouring bleach on it is quite horrendous! But it should give the public some insight in how frustrated staff are. I keep linking to a selection of the Staff Complaints I collected to highlight this, as well as my own trauma with Pret.
Retweeted from same feed:
I keep saying all the time that if something looks to good to be true (from the outside) who will take a closer look? I write from inside knowledge… but most people don’t want to know how it really is. It’s far easier to be lulled in with brilliant marketing and a smiley facade, added with fast Tweets and customer service. Amy Sharpe’s undercover report was a good start, but she worked only in the evening closing shift. It would be great for someone to work undercover in Pret for at 1 month in the kitchen from 5am on. That is where the Pret blow is felt.
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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 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. 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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