Pret and Itsu founder Julian Metcalfe insists apps aren’t the way to drive repeat business

Industry entrepreneur Julian Metcalfe OBE – the man who famously founded Pret a Manger and then Itsu – has outlined how values engrained in his companies have been the key ingredient in making them successful.

Company values at Pret extend to shop-floor staff, who are authorised to give out “what they want when they want” says Metcalfe.

Responding to a question on how Pret drives loyalty with regards to cards and an app-service during a session on stage at the Lunch! show last week, Mr Metcalfe said: “Here’s some hard truths for you all. Pret absolutely does not have any loyalty scheme as such. It doesn’t have an app and Itsu doesn’t either, because I honestly believe that the best way to deal with loyalty with customers is by doing your job properly.”

He continued: “The way Pret does it, is we allow our staff, in fact we encourage our staff, in fact we almost beg them to give away whatever they want, to whoever they want, whenever they want so that’s their loyalty scheme. Now, in many big businesses that would be weird or mad but it works, it works for the staff, it works for the business and it has worked for 20 years so we’re not going to change it.”

Pret’s financial results show that in 2017, its teams around the world surprised customers with complimentary hot drinks and treats, and gave away 4.4 million free items as part of what the chain dubs “random acts of kindness”.

During a Q&A at Lunch!, Mr Metcalfe went on to describe how being proud about a product sends out the right message to make consumers want to go into stores and buy it.

When asked about how both organisations had come to be admired by the public, he gave a trademark charismatic response and said he was unsure if they were admired.

He said: “I don’t know, are they admired? I’m not sure if they are admired. If they are, they are only admired on a day-to-day level. You’re only as good as you were last week, that’s what people remember.”

He added: “So many of the people I work with are remarkable and they are so driven to keep improving and they’re so drive. They never stop trying to say this isn’t good enough, you have to evolve all the time and that means having a culture at work in which people can say what they feel.”

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