How to pronounce Pret a Manger

What supermarkets (and instant food providers) can learn from snack pioneer Pret A Manger

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If it occurred to someone at McDonald’s tomorrow that the idea of ​​the burgers had slowly become obsolete; if Pizza Hut announced that it would use fewer flatbreads in the future; and if Starbucks suddenly developed a disinterest in overpriced coffee, the world of instant instant consumption would be upside down. Similar to the people who would be responsible for it, a little later from their jobs.

Clive Schlee still has his. Since 2003 already. Although he publicly questioned his loyalty to bread several times over the past year. Which is an outrage for the CEO of a chain that owes its success to selling sandwiches.

The chain is called Pret A Manger, opened its first store 31 years ago in London's Victoria Street and anticipated the trend towards better fast food early on: snacks that are prepared on the spot with fresh ingredients without flavor enhancers - instead of once from production Carted across the country to dry up on the supermarket shelf for days until a reckless instant eater takes pity on her.

Pret promises:

"Freshly prepared, good natural food"

(And a good coffee with it.) The packaging reads: "made today, gone today". That means: All snacks are made on the same day in a nearby kitchen. Anything that is not sold on the same day goes to aid organizations. And tomorrow exactly the same.

The spread of Pret A Manger was proof that the market for instant meals does not necessarily have to be dominated by American franchise chains, but that there is room for alternatives. Even if they have a strange French name. And thus also dare to go to the motherland of fast food, the USA - where Pret now has a manageable 74 stores.

(There are more in France, Hong Kong, China and Dubai.) Since 2008, half of the company - in which McDonald’s was also involved - has been owned by the investor Bridgepoint.

While established fast food providers often find it difficult to adapt their concepts, the transformation with “Pret” seems almost effortless. Perhaps the British are just lucky not to provoke an outcry even when they are slowly but surely moving away from theirs signature snack say goodbye - the snack they grew up with.

“I like the saying: 'If you want to stay the same, you have to change constantly,” Clive Schlee revealed in his blog last year, in which he addressed customers directly to announce new developments in the branches or to them ask for feedback. (When he's not busy replying to people on Twitter who bought a bad sandwich.)

"Ten years ago sandwiches were responsible for almost 30 percent of our sales - in 2016 it will be less than 10 percent",

explained the CEO. And recently confirmed in an interview with “Fortune” that in future even fewer snacks would be wedged between two slices of bread: Pret was going “away from bread-based products”.

You can't see that on the full shelves in many shops.

But the switch doesn't seem to hurt sales. On the contrary: This spring Pret A Manger reported a 15 percent increase in sales to £ 776 million. The new snacks on the shelves are more and more common: yogurts, soups, salads - and for a year now increasingly vegetarian.

At the beginning of June 2016, Schlees' team opened the first “Veggie Pret” in the London borough of Soho - a branch that only sells meat-free products.

The test was originally planned for only one month. But after a short time it was clear that the idea had hit a nerve with many customers. One month became two, then three. Finally Schlee announced in a blog post:

"Veggie Pret is here to stay"

The store, which was dipped in green, has been open permanently ever since. And like on the first day: a hit. In April another Pret-A-Manger branch opened as “Veggie Pret”, this time in the Shoreditch district.

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If the German supermarkets and instant food providers are smart, they look a little bit at the tactics of the British in order to win new customers.

1. Experiment quickly, learn quickly

As a company, you can of course start extensive data collection campaigns to extract as many details as possible from customers' bonus cards and smartphones and then evaluate them for months. Or you just look at the information that is already slumbering in your own coffers.

Pret A Manger opted for the second option and determined in which part of London customers buy meat-free products most frequently in regular pret shops. This automatically found the location for the second Veggie Pret on Great Eastern Street, Schlee explains - “based on the high levels of vegetarian sales in the area”. Sometimes big data can be so simple.

Less than three months later, Pret started the next test and a few weeks ago introduced “veggie fridges” in over 90 British branches: refrigerated counters with a green frame in which only vegetarian snacks can be found without customers having to search for them between the other products.

(Up until now, veggie snacks were usually only marked with a small green V on the price tag.)

“If you like that, we'll leave the counters up for the summer,” Schlee promised. And at the same time explains why the initiative is also associated with risks. Because nobody can tell whether meat eaters feel put off by the “veggie fridgges” - and then fewer snacks are bought that are sorted into separate cupboards. (Or just the opposite happens.)

But even if the green cabinets are not as successful as the pret management hopes, the campaign has an advantage: branches in which sales of meat-free snacks are increasing strongly recommend themselves as new veggie pret locations.

The Pret-A-Manger strategy is simple but effective: tests are implemented consistently, even if they involve risks; Results are then quickly evaluated so that conclusions can be drawn and the next test can be started immediately. Unlike in the German grocery trade, which always has to fail big with gastronomic offers - and then start all over again.

Isn't that right, “Made by Rewe” - “Oh Angie” - “Deli on the market”?

2. Communicate cleverly

Above all, Pret A Manger communicates openly to its customers - without the fear that the competition might copy something from new initiatives. (Do it anyway, if they are successful.) That contributes significantly to the credibility, which has been an important point for Pret from the start.

It doesn't help either to put a red logo on green, because suddenly two more salads appear in the range - as McDonalds did a few years ago in many countries to counter the accusation that the burger giant contributes excessively to obesity .

The fact that Pret dips its veggie branches completely in green, however, fits well: Because the range is actually exclusively plant-based.

The real art, however, is not to scare off those customers who would actually like to continue carrying chicken out of the store in their lunch salad and are looking forward to the ham on their sandwich. The entire pret communication is designed to include meat eaters by emphasizing that the new plant-based snacks are also made for them as a supplement to the previous range:

"Not just for veggies"

(There is no other way: From market research, Pret knows, for example, that 52 percent of Veggie Pret customers usually eat meat, but want to limit their meat consumption.)

The fact that Clive Schlee, the company's CEO himself, is communicating and explaining these changes is certainly not a disadvantage.

But of course: once you as a supermarket get used to firing out anonymous press releases with marketing gossips and leaving the rest of the communication to a few harmless food bloggers with their recipe reporting, that leaves the executive floor of course much more freedom to deal with self-important To give industry interviews.

3. No snack is forever

Pret A Manger brought 45 new products onto the shelf a few weeks ago on the occasion of the opening of the second veggie branch in London. No, that's not a typo. It's just the consistent implementation of the knowledge that you can open as many shops in the right place as you want - but in the end you also need a suitable offer. To offer snacks that nobody else has. And to lure customers who have not yet thought of giving up meat with delicious ingredients and unusual recipes.

(No, dear discounters, this does not mean the hundredth variant of potato salad in Mayomeer.)

Pret tries, for example, with: Vegetable macaroni ("Mac and Greens"), toasted banana, blueberry and almond butter wraps, smoothie breakfast bowls, boxes with sweet potato falafel and vegetables, and spicy yogurts with edamame and spinach. The bestsellers are also available in regular stores; other new snacks are initially available exclusively in the veggie shops. This ensures that curious customers come back. And at the same time keeps the risk of flops low.

The continuous further development of the range, if in doubt also at the expense of established classics such as sandwiches, meant that Pret made around 18 percent of its sales in 2016 with products that hit the shelves for the first time in the same year.

4. Snacks for any time of the day

The outdoor eater does not live from lunch alone, sometimes there is also an outdoor breakfast: German bakery customers have known this for a long time and consistently implement this knowledge (see supermarket blog). Pret A Manger has noticed how the sales of its snacks have shifted over time: 59 percent of sales are no longer made at lunchtime, which has been the focus of the entire range for many years.

That is why there are now coconut porridge and breakfast brioches for customers who have left the house without breakfast in the morning; and if you want, you can get it before the Lunch hour a gluten-free soup.

That doesn't mean that snacks that are suitable for breakfast have to be removed from the menu at lunchtime. (McDonald’s grew massively in the past year after the breakfast menu was made available throughout the day in the USA.) However, it means that instant food providers and supermarkets should have snacks ready for every time of the day in order not to restrict themselves unnecessarily.

So far, Pret A Manger has not dared to go to Cologne, Berlin or Munich - possibly also because the sandwich culture in this country is more of a bread-and-roll culture that is served by countless bakers and bakeries (see supermarket blog). It should stay that way for the time being.

Nevertheless, there are numerous providers who have understood the pret principle and are (slowly) transporting it to German cities.

Pret's German snack relatives:

Dean & David adorns itself with the motto “Fresh to eat” and promises “natural ingredients”, “100% freshly handmade with love”. The franchise system is available at major German train stations Scoom fresh sandwiches and salads for those in a hurry to take away. And the supermarket supplier Natsu has changed from a sushi specialist to a universal connoisseur of fresh snacks and produces sandwiches and salads, e.g. for Rewe's "To Go" product range (see supermarket blog).

However, the former discount back chains have seen the biggest boost in sales in recent years Baked goods and Back Factory experienced who are working hard to become snack chains with a considerable range and chic shops (see also supermarket blog).

The supermarkets are still largely inactive. And miss out on a market that could become increasingly important in the future in order to reach mobile and young customers. There is already enough to watch at Pret A Manger. And be it only: a cheerfully blogging CEO.

Photos: supermarket blog

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