The case is important. My friend called me posh when I told her I’ve been going to Pret recently. She didn’t know about the subscription. Perhaps that’s good; prevents my closest Pret from clogging up with customers (and then it closing down due to losses). But wherever there’s a Pret, more and more people find out about their first-month-free coffee subscription offer, and queue up to get their organic lattes and blended smoothies.
Today’s morning was no different than any other day’s. I got up, felt bad about the world, and went outside to get my Pret coffee. The morning coffee trip gives my life definition – mainly because I have somewhere to go to, but also because a life of a student/writer/me is hardly complete without that cup of liquid darkness. Drinking coffee, even just holding it in my hands, gives me a point of poetic metaphor for life: black as my soul, hot fuel/oil for the cogs in my brain, etc. etc. Nothing original here.
But from the moment I found out about the new Pret strategy I needed to also find out why they were doing it. And so I found a limited number of articles. Now, I am no economist, if I wanted to become one I would have to have double the time I’ve got in a day to read what needs to be read to become an economist. I am just a geographer. So I’ve read articles and made observations, and here I report what I’ve figured out.
Why is Pret giving away so much free coffee, then?
- Rebranding – I’ve read somewhere that Pret – out of necessity rather than desire – is trying to rebrand itself as a place more accessible to students, so that they can get their sandwiches and coffees to-go or sit-in as they study for their woebegone degrees. This sounds like a good idea to me. I mean, in a place like Edinburgh you can really squeeze the money out of students. They have it. They come from London and the home counties. They are getting sick of Tesco meal deal sandwiches. And students could always do with some nutritious food. Good luck on that path, Pret A Manger.
- Attracting customers back in – With the closure of many offices in office zones and people working from home, Pret lost a large part of its clientele. After all, Pret is a high end coffee+sandwich chain, whose native environment (it would seem) is central London, and native customers – office workers in very nice outfits. I’ve also been told by somebody that making a cup of coffee really doesn’t cost the cafe much, it’s a matter of 20-odd pennies (probably more, though). So the customers who took the bait, both old and new, will maybe less of a dent in the budget, and even make the shop money if they get… <next point!>
- Side orders (kind of a commonsensical one, you have to make money on what goes with your main order) – what goes better with your caffeinated drink than a sandwich, or a fancy salad, or a hot, crispy croissant? People who go there for coffee might as well turn their trip into a lunch foray. I only did it twice, but I am a person who very rarely eats out and spends money on things I could buy cheaper elsewhere (although now I’m trying to transition into an adult and spend my money on fancy, unnecessary things, such as coffeeshop pains au raisins). People other than me do it more.
- Making friends with your barista – My observation came late, almost two weeks into my free coffee experience, and it really is written on your takeaway cup: “Your Barista is pleased to see you again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And …”. My closest Pret in Tollcross has a few staff, from whom I can now recognise two men and one woman. The two men are always smiling. The one with dark hair was the one who served me the first time I used my YourPret Barista card (also, it was the first time I ever step foot in that Pret). The one without hair (but with a beard) is always smiling the widest, I can tell by the way his skin wrinkles around his eyes. He’s precious. He got me my black americano this morning. I think he recognises me, too – I am forced to wear my big, old, black glasses now, and I wear pretty much the same outfit every time. It’s a bit intimidating, but I tell myself that as long as I keep appearing once my trial is up and get a side order at an occasion, I will keep the reputation of a Good Customer.
Would you add anything to this list? Are you using the YourPret Barista service? What’s your favourite Pret drink (or meal)? (I love the pain au raisins. Sadly, one has almost 400 kcal, otherwise I’d eat it almost every day).
Will you sign up to the £20-per-month service, once your free month is up? Let me know, I’m interested to know. (No, I really am. Coffee shops are kind of my pastime).