“ Delivery service from the renowned fresh food and coffee house. Delivery is free within the specified delivery zone but there is a £30 minimum order. „
I felt like crap at work the last week of September, but I stuck it out until I got told to go home. Why? Because the meeting on Friday had a buffet and that buffet was from Pret A Manger. There are loads of reviews which will tell you what their shops are like, or describe the individual sandwiches, but I needed to find out for myself what they could provide in terms of an office lunch.
I've been on a mission lately. It used to be that everyone ordered the incredibly frequent buffets from the same complacent supplier. Sometimes they showed up, sometimes they weren't too stale or curly. Sometimes there was even a single sandwich without meat for the vegetarians to fight over. As it was, standards weren't too high and I made it my job to find a new and at least half decent supplier. Because there's no point having a buffet where everyone eats their own sandwiches and tips the plates of food into the bin afterwards.
In case you haven't seen the delivery menu at Pret, they offer platters - large plastic trays with a variety of sandwiches such as vegetarian or classic selection. You can't select the individual sandwiches, but you can select your size of platter and the overall theme. There's no option to choose crisps, fresh fruit or juice, or indeed any of the other extras you might take for granted, so it must be said that the platters are the main focus.
If you are ever likely to organise a working lunch, have a few friends over, plan a party or even look to caterers for a small and quiet wedding celebration, you might look to a large company with a reputation for excellence. In the run up to Pret that Friday, I tried and tested a few other suppliers and it's so hard to find perfection. Once I felt better, I settled down to write to Pret about my experience. After a few tries with the customer service team I felt a little disheartened at the lack of response. Then, I spotted the link to write to Julian Metcalf, the founder of Pret. I've always vaguely admired Julian and his sandwich empire, I even forgave him for selling out to McDonalds because he apparently still took an interest.
I'm writing to you because I hope that you still genuinely care about the service Pret offers.
I am responsible for ordering buffets within my workplace, often several each week. With Pret able to provide a reasonable range of fresh food, I thought ordering buffets from here would be ideal for all concerned. Unfortunately, I've had to give up. Our problems were as follows:
1) I can't order more than a couple of days in advance. This causes a problem, especially when I'm on annual leave or over the Christmas period. For example, today I tried to order for the 4th January (our office will be closed until then) but was told this was impossible.
2) Although platters are provided for delivery, I can't order drinks, for example large Orange Juice. I would have to go and buy these separately.
3) The focus is entirely on the individual rather than a group of people with the individual salad and fruit salad pots. I can't even order a large bag of crisps to put in a bowl.
4) The website doesn't provide enough detail to make my order - e.g How many brownies are in a brownie bag? How many people will this bag feed?
5) The customer services don't answer when I email them with questions - it's been over a month.
6) Last time we ordered, the order was so late it arrived after lunchtime and was then brought to the wrong floor. When there are a lot of people eating, we need time to lay the food out on tables. Is 11am really too early? Even 12 would do at a push.
It would be great to hear back from you - until now, I've always thought Pret to be the gold standard of good fast food and service.
I received a swift response, but not from Julian;
Thanks very much for your email. I am really sorry to hear that you are not very happy with our delivery service. Our website allows customers to order up to 5 working days maximum in advance. The reason for this is to maintain a reasonable speed for all users.
To ensure that this doesn't cause too much problems for our customers we do allow placing orders up to 10am on the day of delivery.
I hope this will allow you to order your food for the 4th of January as you can place the order on that day until 10am either via the web or via phone. With regards to large cartons of juice or large packets of crisps I do agree that it would be good to offer this. However the majority of our delivery customers order mainly platters and no other items for delivery and the drinks/crisps only represent about 5% of the delivery sales. This is the main reason we have not sourced different products, but I will certainly forward your comments to the Purchasing Team for their consideration.
The breakdown of platters, brownie bags or all other items can be viewed by clicking on the item which is underlined. Once you click on it you will go through to a description page telling you more detailed info about this product. With regards to the response time to your emails from our customer service team I would obviously like to apologise if your email has not been responded to. But I'd like to say that we do aim to answer all email within 24 hours maximum. Could you please confirm the email address you have sent your query to so I can double check what has gone wrong. If you do still have the email you have sent then please forward it on to me as this would make my research easier still.
I am so sorry to hear that your order has arrived late on the first occasion this clearly should not have happened. Orders should arrive by 12.30 at the latest. I will have a word with the Manager at the Reading branch to find out what happened when they delivered to you. I'd really love for you to give us another chance! Please give me a call prior to placing your next order and I am more than happy to add a complementary sandwich platter as way of apology for the problems you have experienced so far.
Well, this is a pretty good answer, but I still wasn't entirely satisfied.
Dear XXXXX, Thank you for your quick response and your kind offer. Unfortunately, I still won't be able to order for the 4th of January as I will be on Annual Leave and out of the office until then.
I need to place all my orders for the first two weeks of January today. It's great that you still allow people to book buffets on the same day they want them, but it would be very convenient for those, like me, who order several buffets a week to book them months in advance. For example, I already have buffet requests for April. Even two weeks in advance would be good.
I'm very pleased you agree with my comments regarding larger sizes of Juices and salads, currently there is a queue in our local Marks and Spencer everyday with people solely buying juice and large crisps to top up ordered buffets.
With regard to the product descriptions; in the case of some items, these are very limited. "A bag of our delicious slices all in bite-size pieces that are hard to resist" is not quite enough information for me. For the large buffet orders it would be really helpful to know that there are X number of slices or that a bag would feed X people.
My original email was sent via the website to the "I've Got A Question For You" address under the 'Contact Us' section. As I used the website, I don't have a copy, sorry.
Does the 12:30 deadline mean that there is unlikely to be any way of ordering earlier buffets in future? All our buffet lunch breaks run from 12 until 1 and the food really needs to be on the table by 11am. (Many employees start at 7am or before so we tend to take an earlier lunch).
I'd like to thank you for all of your help with this, I realise that you are not personally responsible for any of it and if we ever do order from Pret again I would like to take you up on the offer of the sandwich platter.
The food is nice and the vegetarian choice is good - but - realistically, the order system has proved too inflexible to meet our needs with advance orders, the deadline for delivery is too late in the day for us and the effort required in having to send someone to buy extras such as juice invalidates the convenience of having a buffet.
Thanks and Kind Regards, Malibu_Jenny.
So, in conclusion, if you can order at very short notice, eat the buffet lunch later than usual and guess at exactly how much you need to order, then this will be great for you - I can recommend the tasty food at least. I do have one last concern; our local council won't pick up plastic recycling from businesses so unfortunately, unlike paper trays which we recycle or metal trays which are collected by catering suppliers, Pret's sturdy plastic offerings had to go in the bin, lids and all.