Recently the Sunday Times had a long article about the company that explained that its 224 British outlets receives a weekly visit from secret shopper, whose job it is to assess the store and its staff.

The shops are scored on criteria such as speed of service, product availability and cleanliness. One task for the mystery guest is to rate the “engagement level” of the server — did they “connect with eye contact, a smile and some polite remarks”?

I don't go to Pret A Manager because they have the best coffee or the best food, although both are very good. The reason I will take the trouble to walk an extra block or two, to find a Pret, is because of the service level.

What do I mean by service level? They are fast, friendly and their outlets have an energy that is missing in their competitors.

If the store passes — notching up at least 43 points — every team member receives an extra £1 an hour for every hour worked. If a worker is cited by the mystery shopper as having provided outstanding service, they get £50 on top. The payout rises to £100 if the branch scores top marks in the survey.

A couple of days ago I visited a Pret in London, just after it had opened. The charming oriental lady, who I guess was the manager, proudly served me my coffee and explained it was the 25th anniversary of 'our' company. This was not manufactured engagement and enthusiasm, she meant it. The other staff were equally friendly. A couple of minutes later I see her in the doorway sweeping every last bit of dirt out of the entrance. This is not something that you tell people to do it is because they have pride in their workplace.

Why am I warbling on about where I like to have coffee. It is because in my experience, first rate service  has a disproportional effect on older people. In the sea of poor to average service you notice when you encounter the real thing. That is how you differentiate one cup of hot flavoured water from another.

Well done Pret.

Image by: skinnylawyer

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