Pizza Express and Pret A Manger made it onto a list of UK ‘superbrands’ this month.
Such accolades are normally reserved for companies such as Apple, Rolex and Virgin, but the appearance of two stalwarts of the UK food scene is testimony to the affection with which they are held by the paying public.
The pair have a lot in common, both from a historic and strategic perspective but also from an operational aspect.
Customers know exactly what they are going to get when they walk into either of their stores, and there is an expectation around service and consistency that can only be achieved by getting things right back-of-house.
Both have also understood that in a fast-changing market, where consumers are blessed with choice, there is little, if any, room for resting on one’s laurels.
While a considerable degree of uniformity is necessary to scale a foodservice brand, size on its own is not enough. There has got to be a desire to innovate and adapt that comes from above, and that is certainly evident within these organisations.
Whether it’s Pret’s expansion into vegetarian stores or Pizza Express’ move into pop-up concepts and service stations, each has recognised the need to think laterally when attempting to preserve a winning position.
Pizza Express’ UK managing director, Zoe Bowley, recently spoke at the recent Casual Dining show. One of the things she said, namely “you cannot confuse heritage with habit”, alludes precisely to the notion that complacency is a restaurant chain’s worst enemy.
Her view is firmly that while you should never let go of heritage, you will only survive if you remain relevant.
It’s a lesson smaller operators would do well to heed as they expand. Consistency and quality will take you a long way, but it’s the ability to innovate and remain fresh that separates the brands from the superbrands.