Pret A Manger – Ready to help the homeless

We asked Pret A Manger to explain some of the things they do to help the homeless and hungry

Why the name Pret A Manger and what does it mean?
Pret A Manger means Ready to Eat in French. Pret operates a bit like a restaurant. We build a kitchen in (or very near) every shop where Pret Chef’s freshly prepare our sandwiches, salads and wraps using quality ingredients

When did you open your first coffee house?
The first Pret store was opened in 1986 in Victoria by college friends and cofounders Julian Metcalfe and Sinclair Beecham. Pret has been growing ever since and we now have over 500 stores worldwide.

Where can I find a Pret?
We have Pret stores all over London and in many regional cities and towns across the UK as well as in the USA, Hong Kong, France and many more countries. You can use this search tool to find a Pret near you – http://www.pret.co.uk/en-gb/find-a-pret

What are your key values?
Pret has four core values:
– Happy teams & happy customers
– Amazing standards everyday
– Never standing still
– Doing the right thing

The work of the Pret Foundation in helping to address homelessness and poverty is a huge part of the culture and history at Pret. The Pret Foundation exemplifies the ‘doing the right thing’ value which is at the core of Pret A Manger.

What does Pret do to help homeless people?
In 1995 the Pret Foundation was set up and the foundation has grown with Pret ever since. The Pret Foundation has the goal of helping to alleviate poverty and homelessness in all markets in which Pret operates. In the UK specifically we have 3 key initiatives: the Food Donations Programme, a Financial Grants Programme and an Employment Programme.

Our Food Donations Programme ensures that our surplus food is redistributed to those in need. We partner with local charities that can collect or receive our surplus food donations and then redistribute this food to homeless service users and those struggling with food poverty.

Our Financial Grants Programme offers small grants to registered, grassroots charities who on the frontline addressing homelessness in a number of innovative and effective ways. This year we are supporting around 70 charities across the UK.

Our Rising Stars Programme offers homeless and ex-offenders real jobs and a real chance to shine, in a 3 month employment programme the Rising Stars get a paid job at Pret, prepaid travel cards, a huge amount of support, counselling sessions and a number of workshops. Since the launch of the initiative in 2008 nearly 500 Rising Stars have completed the programme.

How can a homeless project get in touch with you if they wanted receive some of your food?
Any charities interested in receiving surplus food donations can get in touch with us at charityfooddonations@pret.com

What’s Next: October newsletter

Our October newsletter is now out. As we celebrate our second birthday, we look back at some of the highlights of the last two years.

We also congratulate our first Volunteer of the Month, Bridget Lane, for her unfailing daily collections of food whatever the weather.

And we ask everyone to put Next Meal Saturday, January 25, 2020 in their diaries. This is the day when we aim to give every street homeless person in the UK a Next Meal card, and encourage them to visit their local support centre.

You can read the newsletter here.

Next Meal is two years old!

Next Meal was launched in October 2017, so we thought we’d take a look back at some of the highlights of the last two years. It’s been an exciting journey and with the help of many volunteers, we’ve come a long way in a short time. Here are our highlights:

  • From a standing start, the Next Meal website now lists almost 400 centres offering food and support.
  • As more cities have been added to the database, Next Meal has hosted launches in London, Cambridge, Bristol, Birmingham, Plymouth and Exeter.
  • Next Meal has attracted extensive media coverage, locally, nationally and most recently, globally. We’ve had features in the Financial Times, the Big Issue, on local and national BBC, and the World Service. Plus many, many more!
  • In the summer of 2018, Founder Martin Stone was recognised by the Prime Minister’s Office as a “Point of Light.” This award marks outstanding individual volunteers who are making a change in their community. 
  • In March 2018, the 3Cs business support community granted Next Meal its 3Cs innovation award.  You can read more about the 3Cs here.
  • We have engaged with hospitals, local police (and in particular Safer Neighbourhood Teams), central London hotels, churches and other faith groups to let them know about Next Meal and supply them with cards for distribution.
  • We’ve launched a monthly newsletter with news, articles and advice on best practices. We’re always growing a community of mutual support and assistance amongst those serving our vulnerable homeless people. This will never change.
  • The grant of charitable status in April 2019 has allowed Next Meal to develop into a distinct entity, independent of the Soup Kitchen from which it originated. This will help us to accelerate our plans to develop our network and increase awareness of the service.
  • Next Meal has come to the attention of politicians across the political spectrum, as a result of which it has been given the opportunity to host a launch party at the Houses of Parliament in the new year.   

But we’re just starting. There’s so much more we want to achieve and we can only do it with your help. One of our goals is to build a vibrant, effective network of centres that share experiences, resources and ideas so that we can all grow together. 

Over the coming months, we’ll be introducing various initiatives to support this aim, so please do get involved and together we can help more homeless and vulnerable people in need.

What’s Next? The Autumn newsletter

Check out our latest newsletter, featuring an interview with Mick Clarke, Chief Executive of The Passage. Mick talks about the work that The Passage is doing to help end homelessness, and the importance of Next Meal.

We also kick off our Volunteer of the Month awards, celebrating the wonderful people who give so much to help the needy.

You can read the full newsletter here.

Please let us know what you think.

Andrew Mitchell, MP, highlights Next Meal in The Spectator

In response to an article in The Spectator, Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell wrote a letter in which he mentioned the great work that Next Meal is doing to help the street homeless and vulnerable.

Andrew is a strong supporter of Next Meal and is co-hosting a launch event at the House of Commons next year. The event was originally scheduled for October but due to the UK’s uncertain political situation we have postponed it until February – more on that in a future blog.

The link is here, but in case you have difficulty accessing it, we’ve copied the letter below.

Exeter welcomes Next Meal

Exeter Cathedral hosted a Next Meal launch recently. Here’s what Canon Becky Totterdell, St Peter Canon, had to say…

I guess most of us reading this won’t worry too much about where we will find our next meal. But for many people in our society it is a very real anxiety, as we know from the massive use of food banks both locally and around the country.

So on 28th June- Exeter Cathedral was delighted to host the launch of ‘Next Meal’ – an online guide in the making, signposting people to where they can find free food in their own locality, wherever they are in the UK or Europe.

Already rolled out in many parts of the country, this was Exeter’s chance to welcome and publicise Next Meal’s coverage of Devon and the South West.

GPS guidance to local free food

Brainchild of Martin Stone, Next Meal is a website which directs homeless people to nearby soup kitchens using GPS data. Martin, who lectures in Housing and Economics, has been manager of a soup kitchen in Muswell Hill, London, for over ten years, and it was there that he came up with the idea, when he realised that most of the homeless people he met had a smartphone.

Help for well-wishers too

As members of the public, we don’t want to pass by those who ask for our help, but we are usually (and rightly) uncomfortable giving money to homeless people not knowing how it might be used. So the next time you come across someone on the streets who asks you for money, what you can give them instead, by looking up nextmeal.co.uk on your own phone, is information about locations of the nearest centres that provide food, and on which days of the week and times of day.

For those who do not have smartphones, the Next Meal organisation also provides small cards with the website details on, which churches can order for their members to carry around, ready to give to someone they see in need. The Cathedral now has a stock of them on the Chaplains’ and Stewards’ desk and you are welcome to take a handful to give to those who might benefit. Next Meal kindly donated two mobile phone chargers to the Wednesday Kitchen, along with a good supply of Next Meal info cards for the Kitchen’s guests.

High level backing and commendation

Comics Sean Lock and Lee Mack, and actress Naomie Harris, supported the launch, and Theresa May has awarded Martin Stone the ‘Points of Light’ award for the venture, a government award which recognises outstanding individual volunteers whose work is making a positive impact on a whole community.

Next Meal is just one of a number of recent technological initiatives to connect the homeless to local services. Streetlink is an app which tells the user – whether homeless person or concerned passerby – where the nearest night shelters and help centres are located.

Exeter’s city-wide response to the problem of homelessness

There was a great turnout in the Chapter House for the southwest launch of Next Meal. On behalf of the Cathedral, I was delighted to welcome the Lord Mayor of Exeter – Councillor Peter Holland – and Mrs Jacky Holland, other members of Exeter City Council, and representatives from Exeter Food Action, St Petrock’s, Julian House, Food Exeter, the Salvation Army, our own Wednesday Kitchen, Apple, Nexus, the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary, nursing staff from the RD&E emergency department, Exeter College, and Exeter University.

The Lord Mayor spoke inspirationally about a charity he’d been involved with in Plymouth some years earlier, which helped homeless people get back into work by arranging work experience and placements for them. In discussion at the launch, it was clear that everyone had a strong desire not just to help in times of crisis, but to put in place a city-wide Plan. This involves all the agencies represented, and more, to lift people out of homelessness and set them on the path to better health, a home to live in, the opportunity for training and work, help to restore broken relationships, and so to regain their sense of worth and purpose.

Canon Chris Palmer represents the Cathedral in discussions with the Exeter Homelessness Partnership. The Partnership has recently taken a big step forward in agreeing to employ someone to pull all the city’s resources together in order to bring about positive change.

Joined-up thinking

Martin Stone’s passion is to see more of this joined-up thinking in every part of the country, and ultimately for there to be a national strategy that works. He clearly has a significant role as an inspirer, catalyst, and encourager in bringing about change. In my conversation with him over coffee earlier that week, he shared that he suspects his next major work will be to come alongside schools to inspire them to help young people develop the resilience that will enable them to withstand the knocks of life. Only that way can we hope to stem the flow of people who might otherwise spiral downwards to the streets in times of significant adversity. A vast new task indeed!

Canon Becky Totterdell, St Peter Canon