Places I like: Pret A Manger

Ready to eat natural, fresh foods, recycle and support local charities?

I remember when my dad first took me to Pret A Manger in London when I was young. I loved it and told him that I wanted to work there when I grew up. Although I can’t imagine working in a Pret shop now (perhaps at the HQ), I am still very impressed with the company’s consistent philosophy, the freshness of the food and the messaging around natural, healthy products and sustainability. The company began in London in 1986 with the aim of bringing natural, preservative free meals to the ‘fast food’ market. For anyone living in London, Pret is a standard fixture in train stations and on High Streets and probably not somewhere you really think twice about. But discovering Pret in New York made me reconsider the brand and its success.

The company’s messaging focuses on freshness and, rather than using factories, all its food is produced in store the same day you purchase it. To avoid landfill, the organization works with charities to send unused food to homeless shelters once the store closes. It has been using recyclable, cardboard sandwich boxes since the 1990s and currently 96% of its packaging can be recycled. As well as reducing its carbon and water footprints, the company also aims to have zero waste sent to landfill by 2012, which, in my opinion, is a goal that more companies should strive to achieve.

Something else I always appreciate in a company is openness about the ingredients used and clear nutritional data. Pret displays calories next to sandwiches in the store as well as allergen ingredients and all the nutritional information for its products is listed online. Going one step further, Pret also provides information about where each of its individual ingredients has been sourced from. It takes customer service seriously too, providing simple forms to complain, make suggestions, praise the company or ask a question. You can ask the sustainability chef a question via Twitter this Friday! See and let me know if you think of anything to ask.

Pret is growing steadily and I hope it continues the good work as it gains a bigger international presence. It currently has stores in Washington DC, Chicago and Hong Kong and plans to expand slowly, with thought over new locations. Next time you’re walking past a Pret, stop in and help support this responsible business. Some of my favorite products are the Super Humous Salad (with butternut squash and roasted peppers), the Crayfish / Shrimp Salad Wrap and Yoga Bunny Detox drink (grape juice with hemp, echinacea, ginseng). They also make good coffee.

(I’ll get some better food photos next time I’m there)

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