Pret's plight continues, but are they helping themselves?

When it comes to a media crisis, things don’t get much tougher than they are for Pret a Manger at the moment.

The news about the tragic death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse hit the headlines recently after she died on a flight in 2016 having eaten a Pret sandwich.

Then came the news that a second customer has died after buying a Pret sandwich from a shop in Bath.

Whilst these are tough times for the sandwich giant, that can’t excuse a poorly constructed press statement, here’s what they had to say this week:

‘COYO, the dairy-free yoghurt brand, supplied a dairy-free yoghurt to Pret that was later found to contain dairy protein. We believe this resulted in the tragic death of a customer from an allergic reaction in December 2017.

We stopped selling all affected products as soon as we were made aware of this incident. Testing by Pret and two independent authorities found that COYO’s dairy-free yoghurt did in fact contain dairy free protein. We informed the Food Standards Agency which led to a national product recall of COYO from all supermarkets and other shops. Pret ended its relationship with COYO U.K. and is in the process of taking legal action.

Our deepest sympathies are with the family and friends of our customer in this terrible case and we will look to help them in any way we can.’

When it comes to Crisis Communications, there are several massive flaws in this statement and we would have never approved this for release.  Firstly, they should have used the opening paragraph to express their sympathies, not have it buried in the very last paragraph. 

Secondly, there is no ownership, just a lot of defensive language. As far as we’re aware, sandwiches from Pret have now caused the deaths of two customers yet there is no apology or accountability.

It was good to hear that all affected products have been removed, but it would be reassuring to hear their plan going forward on ensuring that something like this can never happen again.

It’s a particularly frustrating statement given how good their last statement was concerning Natasha. They started with an apology, told us how they are going to make changes through better labelling and gave us a timeframe.  They also pledged to work with others to help make legal changes to help give people with allergies better protection and then ended with:

‘Nothing is more important to Pret right now.’

It’s a shame that following this recent tragedy, they didn’t give their latest press statement more consideration.