It's close to 8:30am. I step to one side as another order is made over my shoulder, then another. Hot beverages being passed from staff to customer, smiles never faltering on both sides. My flat white (skinny, decaf health kick) is next up and it's accompanied by a "sorry for the wait" comment. Wait? What wait? It's been under a minute since I placed my order and I'm being apologised to. It's frantic, but efficient and consistent. Pret is the best amongst its peer group at getting you in, getting you what you want and getting you out as a satisfied customer, likely to return at the same time tomorrow.
Pret's queuing system and staff positioning facilitates faster ordering and faster fulfilment than many of its coffee retailer peers. Others still insist on the single file filter from side to side, past the single payment point with coffee collection at the end. Pret follows the multiple till, McDonald's model with customer-facing staff taking orders and payments, whilst others prepare, collect and deliver from the rear. Customers filter from back to front and are churned through at a higher rate, without ever feeling as though they have been.
As The Sunday Times points out this weekend, Pret is gearing itself up for a float. From an investment perspective, it ticks all the boxes: an as yet incomplete supercharged site roll-out, a proven international expansion plan, enviable like-for-like sales increases and free cash dynamics that enabled its lucrative refinancing last year.
The list goes on, but all of the above is underpinned by what is a fundamentally an extremely well executed customer proposition.
Pret, led by chief executive Clive Schlee, saw sales in America rise by 28% last year as it plots a listing in New York. The company, which now has 74 outlets across the Atlantic, recently hired a roster of Wall Street banks to work on the float.