If I’m getting my morning coffee, on my way to a meeting, I could go pretty much anywhere; Caffe Nero, Costa, Starbucks, Pret, Eat.
They’re all usually next to each other, at major train stations and on high streets, and – although I’m sure they won’t thank me for it – their coffee is pretty similar (apart from the dross served up at Starbucks).
I plump for Pret every single time though.
Their staff are always friendly (this must be something Pret look for during their recruitment process), and never look like their job is a chore. They always seem to have good banter, even early in the morning, and even with sour-faced London commuters.
Every now and then, they do something nice and unexpected: this morning they just said ‘have a free coffee’ to me. It’s only £2, but it’s still money that now stays in my pocket, and I left Pret with a smile on my face (it’s not the first time they’ve done that. I was fumbling around for my change once, and was told ‘don’t worry, it’s on the house’).
I found out, inadvertently, just how much they do for those who are homeless.
I was out in London, late at night, and saw loads of staff who’d finished their shifts going up to homeless people, with bags full of sandwiches, yoghurts, fruit etc.
They make sure that this leftover food is signed off (so they’re not tied up in red tape, having to throw away perfectly good food), and goes to people who need it.
I’ve never heard them shout about this, so it can’t just be for the glory, or a nice bit of CSR (if it is, then they’ve hidden it really well).
Pret are also accommodating when it comes to letting homeless individuals come into their shops. I know this sounds ridiculous, but I’ve seen other chains just chuck homeless people out as they’re ‘putting off other customers’.
I was really surprised by Pret’s attitude as I thought they were still part-owned by McDonald’s, so saw them as a big, heartless, corporate machine.
In fact, Pret haven’t been part-owned by McDonald’s since 2008.
So, with a choice of all different coffee / food chains out there, I keep going back to Pret.
If there was a Pret and an Eat next to each other, I’d always go into the Pret.
Have a think, though: the things that they’ve done to keep me loyal haven’t immediately made them money.
Giving me a free coffee, here and there, doesn’t immediately make them money (in fact, they lose money in doing this), but it keeps me coming back for more coffee.
Employing friendly staff who make an effort to interact with me doesn’t immediately make them money, but it makes me want to pop in and be served by those people.
Handing out food to homeless people doesn’t immediately make them money, but it changes my perception of them (slight bias: this is a cause that resonates with me), and makes me want to be a customer of theirs.
And that’s the overall point: most of the things you do that allow you to get and keep customers/clients will not immediately bring you money, but they’ll be some of the most important things you do to make your business grow.
Time for another ‘strong Americano’ 🙂