An exclusive partnership between Pret and Deliveroo will see delivery available from an initial 120 stores in the UK, ahead of a wider rollout. MCA’s Finn Scott-Delany looks into the motivations behind the deal and asks what it says about Pret’s strategy.

Long before delivery became the cause célèbre of the eating out industry, Pret a Manger was a pioneer of the form, running its own platform in-house for some 15 years.

Delivering office platters on branded push bikes, Pret also has a pre-existing relationship with Deliveroo and Uber Eats – though it is now set to go monogamous with the former, following an announcement on Friday.

According to MCA contributing editor Peter Martin, the deal is part of a wider pattern of delivery groups coupling up with the big players in restaurants, lured by the guaranteed large volumes – at the potential expense of smaller scale operators. And it gives Pret better terms and a bigger presence in the delivery space.

“This is a trend we’re seeing with the bigger companies, such as McDonald’s in America, using their scale to get better deals,” says Martin.

“The bigger companies are going for better terms by giving that guarantee of volume. Where that leaves smaller operators is another question.

“It would certainly be interesting to see the small print and see what those deals are.”

While the announcement seems geared towards consumers, and Deliveroo already has its own ‘For Business’ offer, the Pret partnership appears on the face of it to be more cost effective as a B2B proposition.

Despite the narrow margins on small purchases, and the consumer premium associated with delivery, this is being overridden by an expectation of convenience and time-saving, according to MCA director of insight Steve Gotham, who says brands that fail to get on board risk losing ground.

“Added convenience or giving time back to consumers is one of the most powerful forces shaping the development of how we purchase, prepare and consume food – both at home and out of home,” he says.

“This force is still very much in its infancy as more consumers are favourably assessing the cost-benefit trade off and elect to pay the premium.

“As such, more operators risk missing out and losing some sales if they are not in the game. In due course there will be a shake-out, but those left standing will be the stronger brands and they will be in a strengthened position too.”

Meanwhile a former director of Pret agrees the deal gives the company better terms with Deliveroo and a bigger presence on the platform.

“Signing an exclusive deal with Deliveroo – who they’ve been working with for a long time – gives them a lower rate and guarantees a bit more push,” he says.

According to the former insider, Pret’s delivery business is positive, and worth around £10m – though small beer compared to its overall turnover of around £800m.

Still, despite the industry’s obsession with the potential for delivery, he questions whether the push – which includes a summer publicity tour in Deliveroo’s ‘Roobus’ – was the right strategy for a company still reeling from the fallout of the allergy-related death of 15-year-old customer Natasha Ednan-Laperouse.

“Is it a good move? I don’t know,” he says. “Personally, I think they should focus on the core business. They’re losing a lot of people in the head office, in the stores. Pret doesn’t have the image it used to. What made it so strong before is that it had staff loyalty, they understood customers. That is not showing anymore.

“I would have gone back to the core strengths, carry on with innovation, and push the business forward.”