Gerhard Jenne muses on Pret A Manger’s latest ‘flirt’ initiative and looks towards his own summer campaign. 

British Baker reported on Pret A Manger’s strong full-year performance, but I also picked up a story in London’s Evening Standard where Clive Schlee, chief executive of Pret, proclaimed: “If you flirt with our staff, you will get free coffee!”

And this is indeed true, since Pret employees are allowed to give away a certain amount of products – mainly coffee I suspect – to loyal customers, friendly customers, and people they fancy! Pret says this is a much better scheme than using a loyalty card. It is certainly personal, but it is also a bit random. However, loyalty cards can also be tricky. Why only reward those who drink coffee, when indeed you might have other regular customers that spend far more on other products?

For smaller retailers, the introduction of electronic-based reward cards can be quite expensive and slow in a fast-paced shop environment. While it doesn’t capture 100% of customers — since the loyalty card needs to be offered to them in the first place — we currently give stamps for hot drinks and cake slices. Those who carry them in their wallets enjoy the benefit it gives them – either a free hot drink or a slice of cake – and many save them for a special day.

We ran one of our most popular reward schemes a few summers ago. It included scratch cards with each purchase, that gave away products or sizeable discounts. It increased the footfall massively, but it also shrank our margins and, in hindsight, was quite an expensive promotion. It’s not surprising that some customers still reminisce about it and ask when it is coming back.

This summer’s campaign is in the final stages of planning. Our shops will be decked out in festive bunting and some frivolously fruity cakes will hit the shelves: trial bakes of Strawberry Heaven and Lime Financiers have certainly hit the mark.

And it appears we’re not the only ones gearing up for the better weather. London is a hive of activity and one snapshot from the South Bank this morning reveals only the tiniest part of it: a giant purple cow lies upside down in the grass at Jubilee Gardens (Udderbelly), an inflated Sydney Opera House has suddenly become neighbour to the Oxo Tower and, in amongst it all, there basks Princess Fiona (from Shrek) in the morning rays outside her Giant Gingerbread House, while busy bakers flirt with passersby and give away promotional lollies and gingerbread tiles. Life is sweet!