Pret remained true to their Victoria roots by selecting office space in the new Verde SW1 building in Victoria. The goal was to create a people-centric office which embodied their brand and celebrated their culture.
Workplace consultancy helped truly understand what it was that their people and business needed. Honesty and simplicity was key, using natural materials, finishes, and fittings throughout. The centrepiece of the office is a striking 30-year journey of Pret around the central glass atrium which lives and breathes their business and history in architectural form.
It was clear everyone at Pret had to be involved and have a say about their new London office. To achieve this, we conducted an extensive workplace consultancy phase which involved a cross section of people from the barista to the CEO. Luckily there was no shortage of coffee on tap to help generate great ideas!
Victoria has always been home for Pret after they opened their very first shop at 75B Victoria Street in 1986. Fast forward 30 years and, despite opening shops around the world, Pret remained true to their roots, sitting in their Hudsons Place office above platform one at Victoria Station.
Sadly, the landlord wanted the space back so it was time to relocate their office, bringing the business together in one central home which embodied their people and brand, offered new ways of working and celebrated their culture. When construction began at Verde SW1, Pret were first to sign up for 31,500 sq ft of office space.
The star of the show was always going to be their culture and people, not the office. It had to resonate and tell the story of their success and at the same time had to be practical and fulfil a purpose. Pret staff were to be given trust, freedom and space to immerse themselves in the brand and celebrate their individuality by choosing where to work in the office.
The journey begins (as you’d expect) at reception. To celebrate Pret’s first shop opening at 75B Victoria Street, a blue plaque emblazoned with 75B sits on the reception desk. Off reception is a meeting room with their first shop sign in glorious neon pink. It’s fair to say it’s a big office, so Pret created their own tube map showing the location of teams and spaces to help guide visitors around.
From reception, their 30-year journey continues at the amphitheatre which is a versatile breakout space used for company-wide meetings, complete with pillars listing the location of every award-winning Pret shop.
The centrepiece of the office is a striking 30-year journey of the company around the central glass atrium which lives and breathes their business and history in architectural form. This is a continuous piece of bespoke joinery, graphics and feature pieces which act as a timeline, celebrating their achievements and culture. Coupled with the right tools and technology, this truly agile working space allows staff to break away from desks for meetings and lunches.
Other features on the timeline include a model delivery van for leading the way in donating surplus food to homeless charities, a sandwich box wall for being the first to sell in cardboard boxes, fish light shades for only using pole & line caught tuna, classic American style booths with neon signs to represent Pret’s move to the US, and a feature ‘PFT’ wall celebrating the foundation of the Pret Foundation Trust which aims to help break the cycle of homelessness. The whole installation – a labour of love for Pret and Peldon Rose – is a fully functional space which draws everybody in.
Finally, there is a development kitchen where they create new products and recipes for their staff to test which is located close to country-themed meetings rooms celebrating their Prets around the world.
So how do you go about creating a new office with a client like Pret? They create warm and welcoming environments every day for people in their shops and we knew we’d have to match their high standards in order to deliver a successful project. This was never going to be simply responding to a client brief. The only way we knew was to fully immerse ourselves in their business to understand their people, behaviours and culture.
The workplace consultancy included a leadership group of managers from each department, a time and motion study examining the overall use and efficiency of each work space in the office, an online staff profile survey and a ‘Pret Forum’ consisting of representatives from each department to act as a sound board. As part of our immersion, our Project Director even spent a day working in a Pret shop.
Having done this, we truly understood what it was that their people and business needed. From this base we could help create the perfect office for Pret and help them give their staff the office space they deserved.
One of Pret’s secret weapons is their Creative Director James Cannell. James is central to their branding and values, so it was essential we worked in close partnership to understand his vision and inspiration for their new office. From this we could create a space which embodied their brand and celebrated their culture.
To ensure the office felt like Pret, natural materials, finishes, and fittings were used throughout. Honesty and simplicity was key, making sure it was a true reflection of their brand and had no unnecessary extra ingredients.
Furniture was an important ingredient for the office design, with large communal desks in the brief, and seating and lockers provided by our in-house office furniture team. Pret took the lead with selecting the soft seating and bespoke statement furniture pieces, with its personality shining through in quirky furniture pieces including a flexi-canvas framed picture of a chair leaning against the wall which you can sit on.
The largest challenge was that we were the first CAT B consultants onsite at Verde SW1 and we were trying to build an office whilst the very fabric of the building was being built around us. It was like building your living room before the house is built.
Despite this, we wanted Pret to take early occupation so we rolled up our sleeves and got stuck in to an epic example of close collaboration with developers Tishman Speyer, main contractor Multiplex, and consultants including Aukett Swanke, WSP, MACE and Arup. By doing this we could coordinate our deliveries with other contractors and have access to the necessary services to ensure the office fit-out work continued without interruption.
At the early stages on site, we worked with Pret to advise and negotiate with the landlord to coordinate CAT A works. This helped reduce the amount of waste, saved the client both money and time, and helped ensure that our final office design fitted in well to the space. An example of this was during CAT A works on the first floor, we kept high level services exposed which fitted in with the final design concept.
On the ground floor we worked in partnership with the landlord to complete CAT A works to create the main data and communications room, Pret store rooms and meeting spaces. Our in-house M&E team completed full mechanical and electrical service installations with new raised floors and ceilings to bring the office space up to CAT A standards. Having completed this stage, we were then able to finish the project with the full CAT B office fit-out works. Our Construction Manager, Andrew Weaver, was onsite throughout the project, and we are very proud of the many challenges he and his team overcame and the final project they delivered.
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