Thursday, April 22, 2004Pret a Manger? Vraiment?
Pret a Manger is a phenomenem that has fascinated Abstractboy ever since he moved to London in September. In Edinburgh there is one, maybe two by now. In London there are lots. The above list shows all of the ones that are within 12 minutes walk from where Abstractboy resides, except Marble arch, which is probably 15 minutes away.
Being a poor student, Abstractboy had never enjoyed a 'Pret' before, but was intensely curious about why and how Pret a Manger really has taken over central London. There is always an air of success, of sophistication, of fine food. The maroon and gold colour scheme speaks royalty. It looked so tempting.
So today he gave in to the temptation. Abstractboy ventured into the 100 Tottenham Court Road branch whilst waiting for his laundry. It was rather exciting. People in suits were gathered round the fridges, grabbing at the cream cardboard boxes, stuffed to the plastic covers with fillings. There were mini bars of Green and Black's finest organic (=healthy?) chocolate retailing at 80p, fruit salads, rough cut crisps and the smell and commotion of coffee-made-to-order. It had that faux-authenticity that one would expect.
Abstractboy opted for the most expensive sandwich on the menu - the Turkey Club. Maximum Expenditure = Maximum Enjoyment, right? He took it to the till where he was served by a charming young man with rather unorthodox red hair. The money was exchanged and the food was squahsed into a rather fetching Pret plastic bag, with not one, but three beige Pret napkins.
The sandwich was nice. The turkey was succulent, the bacon crisp, the salad was even seemingly fresh. And more importantly, the packaging was SO nice. Abstractboy can imagine the 9-6 office worker's smug satisfaction at being able to afford such luxury on a daily basis, stroking the cream cardboard like a fat paycheque.
So is Abstractboy a convert? To an extent, yes. He enjoyed the sandwich. Much more so than one from Boots, where he used to work. It was obviously more expensive than Boots, but the end result was so much more satisfying.
However, we have to remember that Pret a Manger, though originally a London based independant chain, is 33% owned by Mc Donald's, which is really rather inexcusable. The Pret website insists that McDonald's do not have any direct influence over what we sell or how we sell it; nor would they want to. They have invested in Pret because they like what we do. But does that make any difference? Though he has been known to go to McDonald's occasionally (circumstances must be dire), Abstractboy is very much against McDonalds, their treatment of their staff, their globalisationness, their cutting down of the rainforest for cattle farming. So it is hard to truely enjoy a Pret a Manger meal without the niggling thought of exactly what you are eating in to.
Their recent ad-campaign is quite funny though!