Pret A Manger customers complain over drinks subscription deal

Mike Powell
BBC News, Business reporter

Image source, Getty Images

Pret A Manger was the target of thousands upon thousands of complaints. The subscription system is frustrating in that it does not offer all promises.

The £20 a month deal offers unlimited hot and cold drinks.

The BBC has learned that the High Street chain received over 5,000 complaints, including about smoothies being often unavailable.

BBC also heard from ex-Pret employees that workers felt overwhelmed by increased work load since its inception.

Pret a Manger began the subscription in September 2020, after falling sales during Covid lockdowns.

Company said that it was pleased with the response to its subscription offering. This pledge promised: “If your Baristas prepare it, steam it or blend it, you’ll be able to have it!”

Pret customers have been very happy with it. “We continue to work closely with shop teams to make sure that customers and staff are happy,” said the company.

Some customers however stated that it was not always this way.

Rachel from Watford was furloughed for several months and recently began commuting. She told BBC that she was now traveling to London and decided to treat herself with drinks she wouldn’t normally try.

“But, most of all I’m told I can’t drink cold beverages because they’re not available.”

Brendan, another subscriber, said he would limit himself to just two drinks per day “to maintain his health”. He told BBC however that he often cannot find pineapple or mango by the mid-afternoon.

He said, “It has become a long-standing joke among the staff now.” Although I laughed about it for awhile, I now feel angry and that I have been ripped off.

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Isabelle tweeted that Isabelle was another customer. Does this have to do with the subscription? My motivation to subscribe was mainly due to the smoothies.

Others have complained to the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).


Pret a Manger was contacted by the regulator to inform them that it would be a good idea for them “to review their advertisements for their subscription services”.

Pret was informed by the ASA that they had not stated or implied that their service is available at all locations or that it covers all their products if this wasn’t true.

Pret stated that they have spoken to the ASA in order for Pret’s marketing of the subscription coffee is consistent with their most recent guidance.

Several former employees of Pret claimed that working conditions were “unbearable” after the subscription launch.

Staff claimed they deliberately shut off the blenders because it only takes about one and a half minutes to make a smoothie.

They’ll mark down mystery shoppers who are in the store. The team will also lose financial bonuses.

He further claims other coworkers have claimed that the machines may be broken, were being washed, and there is a supply shortage. They also claim they ran out of small blue plastic bags with a portion of fruit.

Low morale

He said that staff are frustrated by the giveaways of endless frappes and smoothies and just want to boycott them. It is easy to state that frappes, ice, or smoothies are no longer available.

They are time-consuming. Make 50 smoothies a day, one at a time. You’ll feel the difference.

The barista at Pret recently quit, saying that he’d been working in the Thames Valley store since its opening three years ago. The blending machine can’t handle it.

Pret can see why it is commercially profitable, but staff won’t accept much more.

One Pret employee was so fed up with her working conditions, she created a website in order to collect complaints. Because she didn’t feel that anyone was listening, the website is updated regularly with new frustrations.

Pret states that less than one percent of subscribers complain about not having smoothies or frappes.

Spokesman for Pret stated that frappes or smoothies were not included in the subscription when Pret proposed it. However, there was public outcry and Pret kept them.

In the same month Pret launched the deal, rival Leon offered a similar promotion for £15 a month – but it was limited to 75 coffees a month and excluded other drinks such as teas and hot chocolate.

Leon said that he had suspended it and stated: “To assist our teams through these difficult times, I have stopped taking in new subscribers.”


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