Our final Q&A for 2018 features Clare Clough, food & coffee director of Pret A Manger. Arrive early on Friday for her exclusive interview at the show, where she’ll share insights from Pret’s journey so far and talk about what’s next for this much-loved high street brand (10.15am, 21 September). 

What do you feel is the key for operators to successfully compete against their competitors?

I think a combination of staying relevant to a changing customer and maintaining the quality and consistency of your experience are the keys to driving customer loyalty and winning vs the competition.

What do you see as key trends for food-to-go in the coming year?

The changing eating habits of customers are continuing to drive some key trends, such as less meat to more plant based or increased dairy and gluten free options as lifestyle choices and I think these sectors will grow again in the coming year. That said, there is plenty of evidence to suggest customers are still prone to a bit of indulgence from time to time!

I’m also interested to see the increased impact technology and sustainability will undoubtedly have on the sector.

What’s your bestselling product at the moment?

The chicken and bacon stonebaked baguette is our biggest selling sandwich at the moment — infact it has been for some years.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?

Seeing the customer reaction to new launches. So much work goes in to getting new products onto the shelves, it’s great when customers love them as much as we do. Social media has really improved the real time feedback we get and facilitates some great conversations with customers. We know really quickly whether we’ve ‘hit the spot’ or ‘lost the plot’.

And the most challenging?

Introducing plenty of innovation for customers but keeping it simple enough to ensure the team members in each shop’s kitchen are able to execute the overall offer brilliantly every day.

How important is lunch! to the food-to-go sector?

It’s the number one place to meet up with people across the sector. A chance to connect with old friends and make some new ones!

Describe the lunch! trade show in 3 words:

Fun, inspiring, unmissable!

Who or what inspires you to be even better?

My team — they just keep getting better and better — I’m driven by their energy and passion.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Never stop listening and never stop learning.

See Clare at lunch! 2018

Exclusive interview: Clare Clough, food & coffee director of Pret A Manger (with Mark Stretton, MD of Fleet Street Communications): 10.45am in Keynote Theatre 1 on Friday 21 September.

To register for a free trade ticket, please click here.

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