Hmm, I think that headline has said everything I wanted to say in this blog. The only thing I should add is that the thought came to mind when I just popped out to Pret just now: and while I’m perfectly happy with the crayfish-and-wild-rocket that I’ve just eaten, and while I still think that the Pret strong latte is second only to Nero’s (although possibly equal with AMT’s), I can’t help thinking that in the face of growing and fast-evolving competition, Pret is suddenly looking more than somewhat dog-eared and off the pace.
It’s difficult to summarise what I mean by this, because there are so many competitors growing and evolving so fast. The most obvious thing, especially on a very cold day like today, is that they’re getting killed on hot food, with nothing to offer except those three slushy wraps (once the breakfast-special bacon rolls have disappeared)*. But beyond that, they’re getting more generally killed on lack of innovation, lack of excitement, lack of fun – just those big, stodgy, weirdly butterless sandwiches and a few half-hearted bits and pieces on the side.
I suppose perhaps the key point is about the speed of movement of competitors. Taking an example from a completely different market, as a long-time subscriber to the weekly news magazine The Week I love the fact that I don’t actually think the pagination, or indeed the page layouts, have undergone anything but the most minor changes since it was launched donkey’s years ago. And if it did suddenly change – especially if it suddenly changed a lot – i’d be harrumphing into my whatever-The-Week-readers-drink (sauvignon? Lapsang? ) just like Radio 4 listeners do at the slightest change to the format of You And Yours. But then, neither The Week nor Radio 4 face the kind of competition that Pret does.
The Week, in short, and You And Yours, display admirably consistency. Pret used to do so too, but now it’s displaying much less-than-admirable complacency. Come on guys, we need something new here. Paraguayan street food is big at the moment.
*: My wife points out that the breakfast menu also includes very serviceable porridge. And of course there are a couple of soups available at other times of day. Still, apart from the porridge, and the bacon rolls, and the soups, and the wraps, what have the Romans ever done for us?