Pret-ty happy staff

The future of personnel is centred around engagement. How, as a retail organisation, can you engage your staff and make sure they convey this engagement to the customers? In the knowledge that customer retention, and therefore the business itself, grows as a result.

A classic example of an engaged staff culture is organic (fast) food chain Pret-a-Manger. With close to 400 ‘Prets’ in the UK, USA, Hong Kong, China and France and revenues of 750 million euros annually, it’s a pretty rock-solid organisation that is renowned for its fun-loving, somewhat quirky staff.
Stepping inside a Pret, you’ll feel an immediate buzz all around you. A warm smile greets you from behind the counter and the baristas shout out the orders through the shop. And all this happens inside 60 seconds after you’ve ordered, because let’s face it, when you call your shop Pret-a-Manger, or Ready to Eat, you gotta be quick.

These energetic surroundings are what customers love coming back to, particularly because of the very friendly and cheery staff. It’s by far the most important business asset of the company.

For this reason, staff aren’t selected based on logical skills, such as preparing a sandwich or being able to operate a cash register. The interview primarily focuses on the three basic ingredients of a Pret-a-Manger team member: Passion, Clarity and Teamwork. Those who meet the criteria are welcome at the Pret Academy, where they are taught the tricks of the trade and, most importantly, become familiar with the business culture.

The Academy, located at the head office, has been completely furnished as regular Pret store. Besides that, there’s not too much expensive gear, because the largest portion of the marketing spend flows back to the staff. Where 7% of the revenue is considered a healthy average marketing spend, at Pret-a-Manger it is ‘only’ 1%. The rest goes to the personnel!
Where is the money spent then? Well, in mystery shopping and rewards. Every shop is visited by a mystery shopper at least once a week. This mystery shopper assesses the team members on engagement and, when the shopper has a positive experience with a team member, the team receives a bonus of 1 pound per hour for the hours that were worked that week. Almost 80% of stores receive this bonus every single week!
But it doesn’t stop there. If the mystery shopper notices that a team member gives exceptional service, for instance by helping to carry a pram inside, then that team member receives a gift voucher worth 50 pounds. How’s that for enabling your staff?!
In the empowerment department, too, Pret-a-Manger has a trick or two up its sleeve. Team members can, for instance, introduce customers to the ‘Joy of Pret’. What this basically means is that the staff are given the freedom to give away a free drink to customers who they feel deserve it because they’re also spreading joy. This creates, as the staff themselves

say, a virtuous circle: happy customers make happy staff, who make customers even happier, who… well, you get the picture.
And so the ever-so-simple calculation we’ll be centralising more and more is slowly revealed: enabled staff + empowered staff = engaged staff.


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