First look: Pret's digital trial store

Date : 24 October 2019

Pret is trialling a number of new digital innovations in its Houndsditch, London, store. We visited the store in a busy office district of the city to take a first look at what these trials could mean for Pret and its customers, and indeed, the wider UK food-to-go market.

Prett Houndsditch
Source: Pret

Pret’s trial offer customers a variety of ways to order and pay for products, all accessed via a new app.  Customers to the trial store can now order coffee for collection, use digital shelf edge labels to buy products in store without queuing at the checkouts and have food and drinks delivered to their table.

So how do the new digital features work?

Ordering barista coffee ahead

Using the app, Pret customers can select their favourite coffee, personalise it with extra shots, flavoured syrups or particular milks and choose a time in the future (a specific time, or 5-30 minutes ahead) to collect it from a designated collection counter. We loved the personalisation available and the clear signposting of the collection counter, making it a quick and convenient option for customers in a hurry.

Pret Houndsditch
Source: IGD Research

Jump the queue

This option allows customers to order both food and drink products to eat in or takeout, without having to visit the checkout.  Customers can either tap their phone to the electronic shelf edge labels or add products to a virtual basket through the app.  Customers then pay for their products through the app but must take their phone to a Scan & Go point to complete their purchase.  At this point any items for toasting can be handed to staff.  

Pret Houndsditch
Source: IGD Research


Table service

Ordering direclty from a table is a service one we haven’t seen before in food-to-go but has become very popular in other busy hospitality environments such as Wetherspoons pubs.  Another queue-beating feature, this enables customers to stay seated at their table and have their food brought to them.  This is done by placing a smartphone on the table where it is picked up by under-table beacons which identify your location.  This is done at a zone level rather than being table specific.  The same methods for ordering and payment via the app is then used. 

Encouraging customer take-up

Digital signage in the store windows advertise the new services. As an incentive, customers ordering a drink through the app receive a free pastry, whilst those ordering food get a free dessert.

Pret Houndsditch
Source: IGD Research

Other store changes

The store has been modified to accommodate the new traffic flows associated with order collection, moving the barista bar to the front counter and introducing a ledge table and seating alongside it where customers can wait for their coffees, as well as a separate Scan & Go collection point away from the main tills.

However, Pret is also using the store to test a new open kitchen format.  Behind the checkouts a large window has been introduced giving visibility of the kitchen to emphasise the fresh onsite preparation of Pret products.  This has always been the case, but the kitchen has previously been hidden away, leaving in-store communications to get this message to customers.  Now the kitchen can speak for itself.

Pret Houndsditch Interior
Source: IGD Research

Our view

Pret is trialling several different digital options to make the food-to-go experience quicker and easier for its customers.  There are sure to be adjustments to the technology, in-store process and layouts as Pret learns what works and what doesn't, but Pret’s consistent market leadership gives confidence that it will deliver a slick and user-friendly system for both customers and stores -  not to mention an invaluable database of customer buying habits on which to build loyalty.

Pret may be slow to the digital party but a large-scale rollout of new tech could be a game changer for customers and the wider food-to-go market, setting new standards in service expectations.  Watch this space…

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