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Why students can't get enough of Pret

Pret A Manger's first university shop has been open on the University of Exeter campus for just over three months

Posted by Hannah Oakman | August 26, 2016 | Catering & hospitality

Pret’s first campus-based shop, located in The Forum at the University of Exeter, opened to customers on Friday 22 April. Possibly one of Pret’s most highly anticipated regional shop openings of recent years, the excited response from students after the brand announced its imminent opening was surprising to all.  

One student went as far as suggesting on Facebook that Pret’s presence on campus might even increase their attendance, and on the shop’s opening day, a couple of enthusiastic students crawled under the opening shutter on their hands and knees to be the first customers inside.

But why does a food brand, and one which normally caters to a largely professional demographic, appeal so much to the student customer? 

The brand’s key offering is its extensive menu of organic coffees and handmade natural food, including sandwiches, salads, wraps, baguettes and hot options. All of the fresh options are made in Pret’s on-site kitchens throughout the day, so the company can keep an eye on demand and adapt accordingly each day. 

Price points are also suited to a range of budgets, with customers able to pick up a cup of organic filter coffee for as little as 99p.

The rise of foodie personalities online and in the media means customers of all ages and backgrounds are becoming more aware of their food, and more interested in how it's made

At the time of the initial announcement, Pret’s CEO, Clive Schlee, explained why the company had chosen to open on a university campus for the first time. He said, “I’ve always been delighted by how many students visit our shops in university towns like St Andrews and Newcastle. This is the first time Pret will have opened inside a proper campus. I think students will benefit from eating Pret food. It’s freshly made, it’s nutritious and it’ll keep them going in the library.”

Caroline Cromar, Pret’s Group Director of Food and a trained nutritionist, explained further, “We know it can be difficult to prepare fresh and wholesome meals every day when living away from home, so we’re pleased we can be here to offer a little helping hand when required.

“Many of our menu items are packed full of nutrient rich ‘brain foods’ like grains, oily fish and avocados, and we’re, of course, never short of a cup of tea, coffee or a revitalising juice when needed. I imagine our hot food range, particularly our macaroni cheese, will be a big hit on campus!” 

So far Cromar hasn’t been proven wrong. Pret’s hot wraps, macaroni cheese and toasties have been very well-received by students wanting to eat a hearty hot meal without the bother of buying the ingredients and cooking it themselves.  

However, the University’s most popular food item so far has been Pret’s chicken Caesar and bacon baguette, followed by the banana, and then chocolate chunk cookie. The company’s salmon, prawn and crab sushi and fruit salads have also been more popular than anticipated

Demand for fresh sandwiches, salads, sushi, wraps and fruit has been so high, in fact, that Pret is now adding an additional fridge onto the shop floor to keep up.

Cromar adds, “Whether it’s quick, hot comfort food, or protein-heavy salads and fresh fruit they’re after, we’ve seen a fantastic reaction from customers on campus. The environment in the shop is refreshing and dynamic. Customers are spending more time exploring the options in the fridges and displays. They talk to the shop team (many of whom are students at the university themselves). They ask about the products and ingredients they’re made with.

“The rise of foodie personalities online and in the media means customers of all ages and backgrounds are becoming more aware of their food, and more interested in how it’s made. Having a kitchen on-site and team members who lovingly prepare the fresh food themselves, means we can be very clear to customers about what they’re eating.”

And it isn’t just students who are enjoying Pret’s fresh menu. The shop is also frequented by staff on campus. “Lecturers seem to be loving our organic lattes!” Cromar concludes.

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