Pret A Manger's chief executive has apologised and restored employees' mystery shopper bonus following an outcry on social media.
The grab and go chain reviewed staff benefits last year after being hit hard by the pandemic and scrapped the bonus, which gave a £1-per-hour pay increase for workers who scored well.
This was reintroduced in April but at 50p, half its prior rate, and staff were informed last week that the change would be permanent, although their number of contracted hours were increased back to 35 per week.
The business has since U-turned and will reintroduce the bonus at its £1-per-hour rate next month after taking staff feedback into consideration, although employee's breaks will continue to be unpaid.
"Unfortunately it's taking longer than we had hoped to get sales back to what they were before the pandemic," said chief executive Pano Christou in an email to staff. "You have my word that we will always listen and consider your feedback. We got this wrong, and I'm very sorry for the upset we have caused."
The Bakers' Food and Allied Workers' Union has said it would back Pret workers if they elected to strike.
According to the Pret Index, sales at its stores in the City of London and Canary Wharf have plateaued at 55% of pre-Covid levels and Christou has said it may take years for the financial districts to fully repopulate. Meanwhile, sales at Pret stores in London's West End shopping district have climbed to over three-quarters of pre-Covid levels.
In its recent financial report, Pret said it had secured an injection of £185m from shareholders to help the business navigate through the continued impact of Covid-19, providing the group with a "reasonable expectation that [it] can continue in operation and meet its liabilities".
However, the business, backed by JAB Holdings, acknowledged "material uncertainties" could cast "significant doubt over the group's ability to continue as a going concern".
During 2020, the chain underwent a restructure to reduce its cost base which included the closure of 39 Pret and 33 Eat-branded shops in the UK, with 3,771 redundancies. The group reported a pre-tax loss of £26m and launched an in-shop coffee subscription service, which allows subscribers to order up to five hot drinks a day for £20 a month, in an attempt to accelerate its recovery.
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