Working with Pret through the pandemic

I first met Hind, manager of the Pret Rising Stars progamme, early last year at an Employment Fair at Mosaic Clubhouse.  At that time, I was an in-patient in Lambeth Hospital and Hind encouraged me to join the weekly ‘chat group’, which is an opportunity for people on Rising Stars to catch up in an informal environment, share experiences and support each other.  At first, I attended the chat group in person at the flashy Pret Headquarters in Victoria.  Shortly after I was discharged from hospital, the Covid pandemic began and I continued to attend by Zoom on my phone.  I met some really nice people. 

Juanita took over Hind’s post and soon offered me a start date for my job with Pret.  My first day was 2nd November at the Pret-a-Manger in New Oxford Street.  Because of the pandemic, the day was spent deep-cleaning and most of the other team members were Spanish speakers so I felt a bit left out at first.  Stores began to close and employees put on furlough so my role within Pret involved me covering other team members’ shifts, which meant I was moved to different branches of Pret and mostly worked within customer service roles. 

After a period at the Pret in Victoria, I was moved to Covent Garden.  Lee from Mosaic met with my managers occasionally and we had a catch up at the end of my shift each week.  I continued attending the chat groups held in Leicester Square.  During winter in the middle of lockdown, the West End was windswept and deserted and, travelling into central London each day to serve food from one of the few outlets to stay open to Key workers, construction workers and emergency workers, I felt as though I was working on the front line. 

As the Pret stores in Covent Garden closed, I was moved to the Pret flagship store in St Martin’s Lane which was quite busy but I enjoyed the work and had the opportunity to work in food preparation which I’d really wanted to try.  I also developed a real taste for Pret food during my time there. 

My graduation from Rising Stars was planned for 23rd February during the regular chat group.  My store manager, Danielle, couldn’t make it so sent a video recording instead with lots of kind words.  Lee came to my graduation and Juanita, manager of Rising Stars, told me that she’d enjoyed working with me and had seen a big improvement in my confidence while I’d been on the programme.  Pret normally aim to make firm offers of employment to Rising Stars graduates but had so many employees on furlough that the opportunities were not available.  However, Juanita encouraged me to apply for Pret positions once the situation improves.  She also told me to continue being confident in myself and not to change. 

Pret Rising Stars was a great experience and I’m really pleased that I had the opportunity to work within such a dynamic, professional team and environment. I am now working as a Service Assistant in a hospital in the retail and food court. 

"My manager told me to continue being confident in myself and not to change."

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Mosaic Clubhouse is part of a worldwide network of clubhouses that exist to provide support and opportunities to people living with a mental health condition.

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