UK-based Pret A Manger (French for Ready To Eat) sells handmade sandwiches and snacks throughout its chain of over 180 stores.
Since its inception in 1986 food waste has been a primary concern of the business. As all food is prepared fresh on site at each store location the idea of throwing away unused stock at the end of the day has always been anathema to the company.
With this in mind the company has focussed on ways to use the food left on the shelf at the close of business each day, which led to their earliest community-based work distributing leftover food to homeless charities in London.
Through the development of its Pret Charity Run the company now achieves food waste of just 2.8%, which compared to the UK average of around 30% is exceptionally good.
Nicky Fisher, Prets sustainability manager, says: One of the key issues has been developing the right relationships with the charities and ensuring the food goes where it is actually needed. In the early days it was sometimes hard to make the right connections but now we have extensive relationships and these are co-ordinated centrally through a database of charities.
The process of redistributing the food is funded by the Pret Foundation Trust and carried out by a fleet of electric delivery vehicles in London.
The major cost is in running the vehicles which accounts for over £200,000 a year. While this is a fairly substantial cost a decision was taken at the management level that this was a key priority and funding was found by taking 10p from the sale of best-selling products such as the Pret tuna baguette. The price of the baguette was not increased to compensate for this; instead the cost comes straight out of the profit margin.
The Pret shops that are not serviced by the Pret Charity Run vans are linked up with local homeless charities that collect the in-sold food directly at the close of each day. Pret employs a Charitable Donations Coordinator whose sole job it is to link charities up with free food. Every opportunity is taken not to throw away perfectly good food at the end of each day.
Pret employees are also encouraged to take unsold food home at the end of the day its seen as one of the perks of being on the closing shift.
Pret donates 1.7 million food items to the homeless across the UK every year.
The 5 electric vans in London (The Pret Charity Run) collect and deliver over 12,000 food items to homeless hostels and drop in centres every week.
These vans run 7 days a week and deliver to 20 hostels/drop in centres in London alone.
By donating this unsold food to charity Pret diverts up to 250 tonnes of food from landfill every year.