How Pret A Manger is using design to tell brand stories

As the battle of the high street food chain continues to heat up The Drum caught up with burgeoning brand Pret A Manger's creative director James Cannell to find out how it is using design to tell its brand stories and differentiate from its competitors.

As a growing business how does design help a brand like Pret?

Our shops are our signature on high streets, sidewalks and transport hubs all around the world – living, breathing brand ambassadors, so of course, design is critical. Beautiful shops, smart teams, simple packaging, well-executed campaigns, brilliant words and unique images are a very powerful combination. Working together they can lift our teams, attract new customers and grow our sales.

How does design differentiate Pret in such a crowded market place?

Alongside our tool box of standard treatments - red fascias, tread plate flooring, painted graphics, hessian menu boards etc (which we often flex to suit the environment, building and customer needs), design helps us to tell stories. Stories about our food, our coffee and our people are written on everything from our walls to our packaging. Wooden tables and uncoated papers reflect and build on the natural credentials of our food and our lighting can talk to a fresh, fast paced service or suggest a calmer conversation over a coffee.

What is the biggest challenge for you as creative director?

As Pret grows, one shop at a time, it is critical that we don’t change (change for change’s sake is rarely a good idea in my experience). Over the last few years ‘Pret’ hasn’t really changed at all. The logo has changed (a little). The shop design has changed. The packaging has changed. The messages have changed. Even the uniforms have changed. But Pret really hasn’t. It still feels bold, it feels proud and it feels as ‘Pret’ today as it did yesterday. Quite a challenge.

Do you work with external design agencies or are you in-house? Why did you make that decision and how do you think it affects the brand?

We have a super talented, incredibly industrious and highly motivated in-house team of creatives and designers. We also have a handful of brilliant design agencies who work alongside us and who are a genuine extension of our in-house team. Working so closely with the wider Pret team and in turn, the creative and design briefs, our work can be decisive, focussed and delivered at pace - fleet of foot is a definite advantage. This way of working, although sometimes tricky to manage, is efficient, affordable and works incredibly well for us.

What does the future hold for the brand- both short term and long term goals?

Pret is becoming a brand that is bigger than the individuals running it. A brand that intuitively makes good decisions for the business, our teams and our customers and for the wider community. And a brand that’s a bit more than a very delicious sandwich shop that sells quite a few cups of good, organic coffee.

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