Thousands complain over Pret A Manger drinks subscription deal

·3 min read
A Pret A Manger branch in London. Photo: Getty Images
A Pret A Manger branch in London. Photo: Getty Images

Food chain Pret A Manger has received thousands of complaints about its £20 a month drinks subscription service launched last year, with customers frustrated that not all beverages are available.

Those who have subscribed get unlimited hot and cold drinks. But the chain has received 5,000 complaints, the BBC reported, about drinks such as smoothies often being unavailable.

Pret A Manger, however, said that the subscription’s terms and conditions clearly state all eligible products are subject to availability and that Pret has spoken to the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority to ensure all marketing for the deal is in accordance with their latest guidance.

“We’re really pleased with the response to our Coffee Subscription… It’s been incredibly popular with Pret customers and significantly less than 1% of all coffee subscribers have raised any concerns about this issue,” a Pret spokesperson told Yahoo Finance UK.

“We continue to work with shop teams to ensure they have what they need to keep team members and customers happy.”

Former Pret employees also told the BBC the subscription, which was introduced after sales slumped in the pandemic, meant staff often gets overwhelmed by the workload.

Read more: Pret trials self-serve hot drinks

The ASA said it received four complaints about the subscription, following which it sent an "advice notice" to Pret suggesting they consider reviewing the ads for their subscription service.

"We noted that their ads should not state or imply that the service was available in all store locations, or that it covers their entire range of products if that wasn’t the case," a spokesperson said.

‘’Pret A Manger appears to have over promised and under delivered to some customers who signed up to the subscription drinks deal," Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst, Hargreaves Lansdown told Yahoo Finance UK.

She said the plan was part of a strategy to to revitalise Pret’s sales which were "decimated by lockdown" and was aimed at "luring thirsty shoppers and commuters through the doors, in the hope they’d also pick up snacks on the way."

The offer also coincided with supply chain issues throughout the food and drink industry, which may partly be to blame for some stocks running low, she said.

"But some customers believe cost savings, and in particular the labour it take to blend drinks, may be behind the shortages of some more expensive beverages. It’s a reputational headache which is the last ailment Pret needs to deal with right now as it’s already faced with trade evaporating in town and city centres due to covid concerns.’’

The company's pre-tax operating loss was £256.5m for 2020 and revenues fell by 58% to £299m for the year, as it was forced to shut its shops for months due to lockdown restrictions.

But as restrictions eased and Brits started returning to the office, Pret's city-centre sites began to recover. In September it said it will open around 200 shops in the UK over the next two years, after securing £100m in funds.

Last month, the sandwich chain said it is trialling self-serve coffee kiosks, with 'Pret Express' to be rolled out in shops, petrol station forecourts healthcare facilities and workplaces.

The move is set to rival Costa Coffee's in-store kiosk offering, as consumer habits change due to new working and commuting patterns post-COVID.

Watch: The risks of buying now and paying later

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