Pret's coffee subscription scheme "went from lightbulb moment to national rollout in seven weeks"

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Pret's coffee subscription scheme "went from lightbulb moment to national rollout in seven weeks"

Related tags Pret a manger Hostech QSR Coffee Loyalty program

Pret a Manger’s successful in-shop coffee subscription went from conception to delivery in just seven weeks, the company has revealed.

The company launched the subscription model on 8 September as part of its strategy to attract more customers post lockdown having only dreamt it up less than two months before, Sarah Venning, global chief digital officer at Pret a Manger, told last month’s Hostech conference.

“It started early summer 2020 with us brainstorming how can we bring people back to Pret?,” she said. “We went from lightbulb moment to national rollout in seven weeks, which was the fastest I’ve ever done something like that.”

Venning described the model as being “lashed together” in order to get it out as quickly as possible. “We made sure it was a beautiful customer experience, it was not totally seamless but good enough. But the back end was lashed together – we didn’t know whether it would be a success or a fiasco.”

The model, which initially gave subscribers up to five barista-prepared drinks per day for a fixed monthly price of £20 (the price has since been raised to £25 a month for unlimited drinks), has proved very popular with Venning saying it smashed every metric the company set for it. It has since been rolled out in France and the US.

Pandemic a catalyst for digital transformation

Pret a Manger had been looking to make more of a play in digital before the pandemic, according to Venning, but that the subsequent lockdowns proved to be the catalyst in its rollout of technology.

“We had recognised before the pandemic that Pret needed to transform digitally,” she told delegates at the hospitality technology conference.

“We had this fantastic physical model, lovely service, great brand, but we just don’t live purely physical lives anymore. Pret got away with not digitising earlier because the service was super-fast but also because lunch was one of the last things to be digitally disrupted. We got away without stepping into this messy physical/digital hybrid word all of us now exist in.

“We have always relied on people coming to Pret and that was potentially a little bit arrogant. We needed to take Pret to where every customer wanted to engage with us. That meant a much more diverse strategy taking away the sole reliance on urban physical buildings and creating a much more diverse business.”

Venning said that Pret had got a technology provider in place and was feeling “very positive and upbeat” about such a move and then the pandemic hit and changed things. “What had been a very important, highly motivating strategic workstream on a big transformation programme suddenly became a survival imperative. We had to take some very rapid timelines that looked challenging but realistic to all of a sudden having to transform this business overnight.”

Radical change

As a business, Venning says that Pret has been “radically transformed” over the past two years with the introduction of a new app, a click and collect service, a strong delivery business and a move into retail with a frozen bakery and coffee offer. However, she described the coffee subscription as being “the massive game changer that really defines our approach to loyalty”.

“Coffee subscribers engage much more deeply with us than a non-coffee subscribing customer,” she said. “When they buy something alongside [a drink] and come in more often on different occasions we get a much richer picture of the customer behaviour.”

This summer the company will be building on the success of its follow up loyalty programme Pet Perks, which it launched in November last year. Customers earn a ‘star’ with every item of food or drink they buy, with 10 stars exchangeable for a reward.

Venning says that marketing for Pret Perks will be more active from the summer and that the company would be looking to make it into a more personalised loyalty scheme.

“We will offer enhanced personalisation and be separating customers into cohorts. If we see customers who consistent shop new categories, we will serve up a reward of something new on our menu. Rewards will be tailored, personalised, and a bit surprising.”

Pret will also be taking a more targeted approach to promotion activity,” she added. “Whether with acquisition of new coffee subscribers or retention of customers it will be in a much more focused way than the big bang, one size fits all approach we’ve taken in the first 18 months of the coffee subscription.”

Sarah Venning was speaking at last month's Hostech event organised by MCA Insight in partnership with BigHospitality.

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