Pret show how to keep your core fresh

Today I had lunch in my local, nicely spruced up and enlarged Pret a Manger. And my trip reminded me of how great a job they have done to constantly renovate their core business. Pret started back in 1986, and 23 years later its still growing nicely, despite a massive increase in competition from Starbucks, Costa Coffee and many other lunch-time alternatives. Sales rose 15% to £377m in 2011, with profit up 14% to £52.4m.

Here are some key learnings from my visit.

1. Remember what made you famous

Richard Reed at innocent talks about the need to "Keep the main thing the main thing", and Pret are a shining example of this. Over 20 years on from their debut, the basic proposition is still the same: "proper sandwiches avoiding the obscure chemicals, additives and preservatives common to so much of the 'prepared' and 'fast' food on the market today."  The food is still all made fresh on the premises each day. And although Pret now sells lots of other food, sandwiches are still the core of the core. The core identity has also stayed pretty much the same, with the same typeface, colour and star symbols.

2. Refresh the core

Growing the core doesn't mean just repeating exactly what you've done before. You need to refresh your offer to keep it relevant. When Pret started, the stores featured lots of steel, which reminded me of a New York diner. It felt quite industrial. But in 2011/12 this look had started to feel a bit cold and dated. The new Pret is much more natural, with lots of wood, and crates on the floor instead of steel baskets. 

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3. Extend the core

Pret still sells lots of sandwiches, but the food and drink offer has been expanded significantly over time. The food now includes sushi, soup and hot wraps. And cofee is a key offer to encourage people to visit in the morning.

Pret has also grown by using new routes to market, by offering service to deliver food to offices for example. In addition, it has also used the more basic, but highly effective, route of opening up more stores on the high street.

In conclusion, Pret is one of the rare brands that has managed to renovate and refesh its core business to keep growing for more than a quarter of a century.

You can read more on Pret in the following posts:

– The Pret brand manifesto: here

– The power of people at Pret: here

– Acting on insight at Pret: here