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Pret A Manger

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Pret A Manger (French for 'ready to eat') is an English 'coffee-and-sandwich' shop who are famed equally for their comestibles, beverages and 1960-style stainless steel. The sandwiches, wraps and baguettes are all hand-made, and, in the opinion of this Researcher, are almost invariably of a good standard. The coffee is also easy on the tongue, and Smoothies - a drink made only of pure fruit juices - can be found in all their outlets.

Founded in 1986 by Julian Metcalfe in a basement in London Victoria, Pret A Manger, is a good example of the new coffee/sandwich bars that have sprung up throughout the United Kingdom. A worthy rival to the American invasion by stealth of Starbucks, Pret is starting to turn the tide as its first US store opened in New York in mid-2000.

When you walk into a Pret, you will see a wall full of sandwiches, wraps and baguettes, along with various drinks and other snacks. They are quite costly, but some would argue that the price is justified. Equally, others would argue that their products are over-priced. Behind the counter is a kitchen, where all sandwiches, wraps and baguettes are made from fresh.

Pret policy is to donate all unsold sandwiches to the homeless at the end of the day. However, in at least one store, this system was frequently abused, and so at some stores the sandwiches are now thrown away.

The Stickers

There are stickers on all Pret sandwiches, all with silly little mottos on them. The colours are irrelevant; the type of sticker is merely determined by the type of the sandwich. However, on the baguettes you will notice a row of little red lines, against one of which the sticker is placed. These lines each denote a different hour, from 7am (far left) to the afternoon on the far right. To find out when the baguette was made, just count along from 7am to where the sticker is. This enables you to purchase only the freshest baguettes, if you know the system.

The Coffee

The most important part! Well honestly, it's your choice as to whether you prefer Pret coffee to anyone else's, but the only way to find out is to try it! The coffee is an Arabica mix that is specially made for Pret and even the double-espressos are not at all harsh. As with every other coffee establishment, the coffee can be tailored to almost any order, whether you want it twice as strong or twice as weak, made with milk or water, or any number of a million permutations. The coffee is also a pretty smooth blend.

The Smoothie

These drinks are pure fruit juice, and they're refreshing, although they are a little pricey and don't last long. One thing to note: Pret no longer actually call them Smoothies, but you'll know what they are when you see them.

Other Drinks

Any other drinks that are sold at Pret (bottled water, cans) tend to be a touch expensive and it's better to buy them elsewhere. But if you're not going to drink the coffee, what can you expect?

Working for Pret

If you apply to work at Pret, you will almost certainly get an interview, as they always seem a little short-staffed. The interview is only a friendly chat with the store manager, who tells you that he/she does not decide whether or not you get the job. Instead, you go in for the day, and work with all the members of staff, and get paid for this. At the end of the session, the team members secretly vote, and if enough of them like you, the job is yours. This is one of the best things about Pret, as you should end up working with people who like you and are naturally likeable.

If they tell you they will pay a certain amount an hour, be sure to check what this means. What happens is that they will pay a little less an hour until you pass the Team Member Star exam, something that you don't always get told. Be sure to clarify how much you will get from the moment you start working, even on the trial day.

But enough of dull financial talk! Isn't it time you got something to eat?

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