A Love Letter To Pret
Updated: Oct 9, 2018
My dear Pret,
I know we’ve had a difficult relationship in the past. I’ve moaned about your obscene prices, the absurd calorific content of your healthy, fresh, organic sandwiches, and the fact that the great international metropolis that is London (stomping ground of Woolf and Dickens and Shakespeare) has become, in recent years, one massive fucking Pret. I can’t help but be bristled by the cultish control you have over the behaviour of your employees and the ‘chatty best friend’ tone of your marketing that makes me, and all of the other customers in your 465 locations, feel unique and loved.
But Pret: you are not just a high-end cafe, promising organic coffee and fresh food. You are my sanctuary when, late one Friday night, my date was an hour late and I needed a place to hide out and charge my phone without having to buy anything. You are the unexpected ego boost when I get my vanilla latte for free. You are my office and my sitting room, my friend date venue and my people watching hub. You were my saving grace at university, when I spent hours in you revising for my finals. I know I can depend on you, wherever I am in this fair city, to sell me the same brilliant combination of smoked salmon, butter & bread dressed up for twenty five times what it cost you to make. You are my shining star of comfort in a changing, terrifying world. Whenever I am lost in London, #soalone in a crowd 8 million people strong, I know I can take refuge inside of you to eat a single banana for 75p and have zero interaction with any other customer.
I know I’m not perfect. I’ve lied to you, Pret, telling you I’ll be ‘taking away’ my grilled artichoke & olive tapenade flatbread when I sneakily gobble it in the corner. I’ve cheated on you, Pret, smelling of the Sainsbury’s food in my backpack and telling you I won’t be eating anything (*wink*). I’ve used more than my fair share of your time and energy spending a freelancer day writing emails in the corner of you. I haven’t always given you the space you’ve needed, Pret, taking over valuable tables and seats with my technology and (emotional & physical) baggage.
And, Pret, I have to be honest with you. You are the guilty pleasure of the young urban professional. We grimace as we admit to having eaten lunch inside of you, outing ourselves as the kind of person who doesn’t wake up early to whip up a Deliciously Ella quinoa salad. We roll our eyes about how ubiquitous you are and, thanks to your proximity to our office, how many of your filter coffees you make us drink in a single working day. But I’m not going to pretend any longer. I’m not just ‘ready’ to ‘manger’, Pret, I’m ready to push the boat out and make a public declaration of my love. I know you aren’t an off-the-beaten-track coffee house in Hackney Wick that only uses beans massaged by monks in Vietnam. But you are mine. And I’m not ashamed to love you.
Whenever I am abroad or in the countryside, surrounded by things they call ‘grass’ and ‘fields’ and ‘culture’, all I can think about is you: sweet, familiar Pret. Of course we always strive for the new, the innovative, the unfamiliar. In London, we are always on the lookout for own secret discovery, a little esoteric hole in the wall that we can wax lyrical about on social media. But Pret: you are the familiar and the known, the beacon of comfort amidst the chaos. You are the same thing over and over and over again from 6am – 9.30 every day. And there’s just something extraordinary about that.
So Pret: thank you. As well as 76% of my monthly income, you have taken my heart.
Illustrated by Percy Preston