Well-done food, convenience and designed experience. Some days ago we posted about Fast Casual Food here on the blog. Another perfect example of this kind of approach towards food is the restaurant chain Pret a Manger.
The first Pret , like it likes to be called, was opened in 1986. It is the same year Slow Food was founded. Even having a lot of different principles and goals, this two initiatives are still a part of a certain cultural behavior change. Since the 80’s, our global and individual problems regarding relations between food and men got more explicit and bigger. People are more aware about how food shapes not only ourselves, but our world itself (socially, economically, physically, biologically…).
Taking a look at Prets, it is clear what is the chain’s business position. And, of course, I have read some consistent critics, but the company is still a nice example of a good market answer to the behavior change I am talking about. I do not intent to make a proper case study, but here are some points I want to highlight:
Gourmet + ready-to-eat, sophistication + convenience. This is Pret’s base concept from the beginning, a lot similar to some other Fast Casual Food cases;
Other strong principle is “avoiding the obscure chemicals, additives and preservatives common to so much of the ‘prepared’ and ‘fast’ food on the market today. It is sacred to Pret.” The company says “partners drop off the very best ingredients to our shops everyday” without the “endless additives that plague modern food.” It is also interesting how natural food characteristics are featured: “Our wasabi mustard is brown (not fluorescent green), our ham is pale (not bright pink) and our dried apricots are brownish (not orange)”;
Close relation with costumers. The brand looks for “absolute sincerity” from their consumers, keeping them informed about it’s strategies and actions. The communication strategy is quite impressive. To set this cozy felling, Pret’s uses friendly talking with people, always with an open approach showing concern for improvement and constantly looking for offering a coherent experience. This kind of preoccupation is also present from packaging and ingredients to chair finishes and eating soundtrack;
Franchising. Pret says they do not franchise. This reassures the quality control that is shown by them. Other than ingredients quality, they “run many courses”. If the concept is present in every shop spot, what to say about the people who represent the brand for you? They take those courses, “most of which have nothing to do with sandwich making”, in order to know how to work under Pret’s concept.
Like I wrote before, there are strong critics about some Pret’s workers’ situation, about their relation with McDonald’s corporation, about buying food from far producers and also about some other contemporary food industry problems. But the company claims to be following UK higher food standards and also dealing well with waste, sustainable sources and considering social care by taking actions like giving their today unsold sandwiches to homeless charities rather than keep them over to sell the next day.
All these questions, linked with other aspects, must be a part of the user’s experience. The way it is going to be designed all depends on the context, what kind of concept you want to offer and who is experiencing it. Pret a Manger’s design is not only in their award-winning packaging, graphic and other products but in the way they offer their services, it is present in the way their experience is offered and experienced.