James Governor's Monkchips

Delighting the customer by pushing decisions out to the edge. More on Pret

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I really like Pret a Manger. It’s a solid brand. As my video from 2013 argues, its nut packaging is just right for me. Amazon Web Services (AWS) has something in common.

More latterly, Pret started to do something really interesting. Staff can give you a free coffee if they want to. This extends to my morning breakfast – a packet of nuts. You don’t get it all the time of course but occasionally the server just smiles and says: “it’s on us”. I should say I go to the same Pret every day, so they know me. Same people. Staff turnover in the business is surprisingly low. I think it’s likely that retaining staff, and giving them permission to delight customers, go hand in hand.

In a small independent coffee shop, they might give you a coffee, every now and then. Situation normal. At Taylor Street, which I have written about before, they’ve scaled the approach with its simple card and stamp loyalty scheme. Buy 4 coffees, your 5th is free.

But a chain as big as Pret – you really don’t expect staff to be in a position to make that call – but it’s ingrained in a program The Joy of Pret. The company has an interesting philosophy. In an article in the Guardian the CEO Clive Schlee is quoted with an interesting perspective:

“The first thing I look at is whether the staff are touching each other. Are they smiling, reacting to each other, happy, engaged? I can almost predict sales on body language alone.”

Sales go up when employees are happy. Go figure. The culture is impressive enough it’s been praised in Harvard Business Review.

To me it’s about happy employees that feel like they can make decisions, rather than waiting for a computer to tell them what to do. You don’t need AI or machine learning, or aggressive tracking, to identify good customers and treat them well. You just need a good culture. A lot of tech businesses could learn from this. Happiness is hard to fake, but it definitely improves customer experiences.


  1. I love Prêt, and wish it would make its way to the West Coast of the US already

  2. Fazal you love it enough to give it the proper accent! yes it’s a good business. the latest innovation is “veggie pret”, which definitely suits some metro markets.

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