Corporate Responsibility award entry

Since our first shop opened in 1986, Pret A Manger has distributed unsold food to the homeless at the end of each day. In 1995, Pret made this official by setting up the Pret Foundation Trust (PFT), with the aim of alleviating poverty and homelessness in the UK.

The PFT currently has three main work streams:

  • The Charity Run – Collecting unsold food at the end of each day and delivering it to homeless shelters
  • Charitable Donations – Giving financial grants to grassroots homeless organizations across the UK
  • The Rising Star Programme – Offering employment and support to the homeless


Our application for the Peer Award is specifically for the Rising Star Programme. This unique, innovative employment programme was launched in 2008 and over the past decade has evolved into an inspiring yet simple solution to support vulnerable people. It gives our Rising Stars an opportunity to get away from the chaotic, unsafe lifestyle homelessness brings and back into stability, employment and housing.


The PFT’s Rising Star Programme helps to tackle a real issue facing the UK – pervasive homelessness.

During the last quarter of 2017, the UK government has classified 13,640 households as statutory homeless, and another 78,930 households are only living in temporary accommodation. Additionally, The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London reported 294 Grenfell Tower, Grenfell Walk and surrounding area households living in temporary accommodation.


On any given night in the UK, 4,750 individuals are rough sleeping, with a quarter of these living in London. 14% of the rough sleepers are women, and 8% of the rough sleepers are under the age of 25. While the average life expectancy stands at 83 years in the UK, the figure dramatically plunged to 43 years for the homeless rough sleeping population. (1)

Those alarming figures are the official government statistics, and true figures would be much higher as many falls through the net; the hidden homeless, sofa-surfing individuals and those facing expulsion are not part of the figures, nor are those living in extremely precarious and unstable environments.


These are the most recent figures, but homelessness is a complex, long-standing issue. With over 6,000 jobs in the UK, Pret is a major employer and wants to do its part in successfully transitioning this disenfranchised group back into society as fully contributing citizens.

The Rising Stars Programme offers homeless and ex-offenders a 3-month work placement in the Pret business.


Candidates are referred to The Pret Foundation Trust by twenty-five carefully chosen ‘Partner Charities.’ The partner charities fully understand the role of the candidate they are putting forward by first completing a shift in a Pret store, enabling the charity support worker in charge of referrals to experience working both in a Pret kitchen and on the shop floor. It is a fantastic opportunity to understand how a Pret shop feels from the inside and an unusual way to meet the team. This ensures that the referred candidates’ expectations are managed from the outset and this vastly increases the probability of long term success for the Rising Stars as they better know what to expect.


Partner charities are fully involved in the Rising Stars journeys within Pret, with regular progress checks of each candidate.

After a successful chat with the Rising Stars Employment Manager, the candidate receives training in a Pret shop, with a mentor to guide them through the three-month process.

This distinctive, multi-faceted method of involving the charity partner, the team in the shop and the Pret Foundation Trust support network is a unique approach and at the heart of the success of the initiative.


The Rising Stars enjoy full benefits of working for Pret, crucially getting paid exactly the same as any other team member. This is a critical element of the programme as Pret feels that this makes the Rising Stars feel equally valued.


Pret and The Pret Foundation Trust understand that if someone doesn’t have a fixed address, it is very difficult to get a bank account, and if you don’t have a bank account, it is very difficult to get a job. If someone has been in prison and has a criminal record, it exaggerates the problem. It is a cruel catch-22 situation.


We work with Rising Stars who have lived on the streets or have a criminal record – people who are finding it hard, for whatever reason, to catch a break.

We let them start with a clean slate.



(1) Ministry Of Housing Communities and Local Government, Statutory homelessness and prevention and relief, October to December (Q4) 2017: England

Pret has provided 420 jobs to its Rising Stars over the past 10 years, many of whom are still working in Pret shops as Hot Chefs, Baristas, Team Leaders and Assistant Managers. More than 100 of them have been with us for more than two years. Those who have left the Pret family did so mainly for positive reasons such as traveling back to their home country, studying or starting a new job.

79% of our Rising Stars graduate to become Team Members, and the retention rate at 6 months is 56% – much higher than the broader company average!

The food and coffee industry is very competitive, with recruitment strategies being challenged by complex socio-economic factors. In this climate, the Rising Stars Programme – through both its longevity and constant appetite for innovation – stands as a refreshing model. The Rising Stars Programme is a unique, sustainable, long-term solution and it has never been more relevant.

“The measure of our success is not necessarily if they are climbing the career ladder, but if they are happy within themselves. They’ve got a new group of friends, they’ve got a roof over their heads…that’s what success is for us. And if they want to go on to greater and greater things in terms of the career, we are there to support them. But this is not the main indicator whether somebody is successful or not; it is their happiness.” Nicki Fisher, Head of The Pret Foundation Trust

I am enjoying getting a chance to get my life back together again. The involvement in the Rising Stars Programme has given me a job, accommodation (through one of their partner organizations), and the prospect of a secure future, not just for me, but also so that I can help my children have a better life […] My dream is to be a valued employee continually improving myself and progressing my career with Pret.” Baptiste, Rising Star.

“I joined the Rising Stars Programme a month ago now. It has been a little challenging to get used to a totally new routine, waking up on time, etc.… but I am getting there. It is my first job ever and I am enjoying it. Lamel, Rising Star.

“I came a few months ago to London. I was referred to Pret by Nick at London City Mission, had an interview with one of the Pret Foundation Trust managers, and I was delighted when I was offered to join The Programme. I have learnt to be patient with things at Pret; there is no point being stressed by little things. I found the team very supportive. I did not have any money to begin with, so when I have found out that travel was covered I was over the moon! I have always felt supported by the PFT Team, they are a bunch of lovely people. Working at Pret is a challenge; there are so many new things to learn for me. It’s a new world! The high point for me is: I have a job, I have a bank account and a place to stay, and I also feel I can move to the next role at Pret” Mel, Rising Star.

“I started my journey in Pret as a Rising Star two years ago. In this period of time, I have been through all the key roles from Hot Chef to Barista and now Floor Leader. It was a challenge when I started. I would never have imagined that I would arrived this far!” Carol, Ex-Rising Star.

“When I arrived at Pret, I had been unwell and unemployed for some months. My confidence and self-esteem were very low and I felt I was of little worth to anyone. The Rising Stars Programme has changed all that. The team I work with is wonderful – particularly my manager who is supporting me in every way. Every day is different and although I am still nervous and worried in case I let them down, I am slowly regaining my confidence and learning new things all the time. For the first time in many months my smile is genuine and I look forward to the future and each new day. Hind, who has been my mentor on the programme, is constantly encouraging me, and our weekly chat group gives me the boost I need to address my fears and keep moving forward in a positive way. I know I still have a long way to go… But with the Pret family beside me, I believe in myself again. Thank you to everyone who has and is helping me on my journey. I don’t have the words to express just how much you have changed my life. And I will always be grateful for this opportunity to be a Rising Star.” Fiona, Rising Star

“I was so nervous about my Experience Day at Pret. I work at Shelter From The Storm as a case worker and it’s been a while since I’ve worked in hospitality and retail […] Oh the multitasking that happens behind those tills is admirable! I was so impressed at the competence, kindness and patience of the team members […] they got on so well and joked around with each other with such ease! If I was a new Rising Star, they would have not only shown me the ropes but included me in their social activities. Words to describe the team and the ethos of Pret after my Experience Day? Positivity, diligence and dedication.” Cathy, Charity partner, Support Worker.

“My Little Star is such an amazing individual. I am so happy that Pret allows people like me to help others, giving them a better way in life: a way forward. The Rising Stars Programme is totally amazing and I am super proud to be part of it.” Clara, Pret A Manger, General Manager

“When I have heard about the mentoring programme I thought it would be an amazing experience to help support our Rising Stars as they take on the challenges that getting back into work bring. I started meeting with Alex a few months ago and it has been absolutely wonderful to see his confidence grow and grow. He has enthusiastically grabbed hold of every opportunity that Pret has offered and I feel very lucky to have been part of this journey.” Sara, Pret A Manger Accounting Manager

The Rising Stars programme is simple in its ethos, yet innovative in its structure. We take on 50 Rising Stars each year and the programme goes well beyond an employment opportunity – it provides participants with training in Pret shops as well as weekly chat groups with their peers, one-to-one counselling, and monthly creative arts sessions. Most importantly, we pay our Rising Stars the same as any other Pret team member. We also break down any barriers they may have preventing them from working. We cover the cost of their travel to work for the duration of the programme, and we also provide £100 of clothing vouchers so they have new jeans and shoes for work. After 14 weeks, our Rising Stars graduate to become fully fledged Team Members with a permanent contract. We’re incredibly proud of our Rising Stars and we are always delighted to see someone graduate and move on with their life.


  • The weekly chat group with their peers is a safe space to share

concerns about life and about work, facilitated by a trained counselor. It is a moment where challenges can be discussed and joy celebrated. It is also an opportunity for the graduated Rising Stars to share their experiences with the new employees.


  • The one-to-one counselling is provided by 96, Harley Street clinic.

this offers the Rising Stars a tailored individual and confidential support delivered by a fully qualified and experienced therapist.


Offering a well-tailored sustainable solution is at the heart of The Rising Stars Programme. This is why, as well as carefully selecting our partners, we are designing in-house courses and workshops to best answer the needs of our Rising Stars.


  • The Creative workshops are run monthly, delivered by Create,

a registered charity whose mission is: “Sparking creativity, igniting change”.

Create delivers its workshops with professionals to vulnerable people or to those who do not have access to art. The activities include music, drama, filming and creative writing. This is an opportunity for our Rising Stars to break the work routine, relax, bond and develop social skills around outstanding creative initiatives.


  • The Work Ready Course offers a set of tools that help the Rising Stars

step back into employment confidently and successfully. Organized at the beginning of the programme, it is run with the support of the Pret Academy. Topics such as confidence at work, reading a payslip, understanding taxes, saving money and budgeting are covered so the Rising Stars can start planning and understanding the steps to saving for a deposit and moving into more permanent accommodation.


All catch ups, meetings, counselling sessions, workshops etc. are fully paid so the Rising Stars can concentrate on bringing back essential life skills together. We strongly believe that the quality of the support provided is as important as the work opportunity itself.


At the Pret Foundation we value the journey and the achievement; this is why we celebrate Graduations in style! The graduated Rising Stars receive a certificate, which for many of them it is the first formal recognition they have received. Along with the certificate, a trophy, card and present are given. The Pret Employment Manager, the Shop Manager, the Charity Partner and the Rising Star are all up for a speech! In the true spirit of continuously celebrating journeys and achievements, we also acknowledge their 6 month anniversary during the weekly chat group and give them a £50 gift card at this time.


The cost associated with a Rising Star is £4,500 from Day 1 to Graduation Day, entirely covered by the PFT. An innovative, bold, yet efficient investment when it comes to turning people’s lives around for the better.


Graduation day is an achievement to be celebrated and far from being the end of the journey it is always the beginning of something new and exciting! Since 2015, each year 8 to 10 graduated Rising Stars who have shown real potential in the work place and demonstrated great commitment and drive are offered the opportunity to attend extra workshops, conferences, courses, mentoring sessions and off-sites during an additional 6-month period, called the Shooting Stars Programme. The aim of this 6-month period is to develop confidence at work, be better equipped to aspire to progress through a career path, identify core values, be more resilient at work and get the confidence to overcome challenges. At this stage developing employable skills is not the only focus, and a Personal Development Plan (PPD) is created where skills needed are identified and goals set. The PPD is also supported by the Insight Discovery Workshop which offers an in depth understanding of oneself and how to connect to other people. On completion of the programme a BTEC in working skills qualification is obtained. For those willing to, support will also be offered into working towards Maths & English GCSE equivalent.

Have we mentioned before that we do like to celebrate all things in style? Well, we really do! Each year, Clive our CEO, takes our Stars to his family home in Austria to climb a mountain, the Grosser Rettenstein!

We hope you enjoy the film of their latest trip.

Pret’s CEO, Clive Schlee, also blogged about the trip here.

“First of all I am human, and I think that Rising Stars is one of the best things that Pret does to help people get back into society. At the end of the day Pret is all about the people […] It’s not easy, it all depends on the person, some pick up fast and some don’t, but don’t forget that this all about helping someone and being patient.” Mario, Pret A Manger General Manager

Mario’ words wisely translate the purpose of The Programme. Making a difference in people’s lives, giving them a chance and new opportunities, and opening doors is at the heart of the Pret Foundation Trust and the Rising Stars Programme. We have always and will always focus on the quality of the support we are providing. While most candidates are successfully going through the programme, we have challenged ourselves to open this experience to the most vulnerable. What if a potential candidate could not yet cope with the extent of the entire programme? What if the candidate was not sure, not ready? How could we adjust our formula to make it relevant to more? Could we open our shops to those who were a little further away from permanently stepping back into employment? Those questions have been handled as an opportunity to do more and a little differently. We are currently trialing a one-week programme, which may lead to the potential candidate joining the Programme, giving insights on the challenges to expect. This could also be an experience put on hold until the candidate is further ready to step back into employment.

“I was struggling a little bit at the beginning, the time to adjust to a new routine, being on time, etc… But with the support from the programme it is getting much better and easier.” Marc, Rising Star

“I think the most challenging thing is to get on with the rest of the team and to cope with the Pret pace.” Yacine, Rising Star

Our shops and kitchens are a fast paced, high speed work environment, and adjusting to the rhythm can be a challenge. The Pret Foundation Trust Team and our General Managers in shops have received the appropriate training and developed adequate skills to answer best the overwhelming feelings Marc, Yacine and many others describe. For the rest of the team, (Assistant Managers, Leaders and Team Members on shift) it has been difficult at times to grasp the complexity of the lives some of our Rising Stars are going through. We have seen an opportunity to upskill our broader team by offering a Mental Health Awareness Workshop focusing on homelessness. This half day workshop is run quarterly at the Pret Academy by the 96 Harley Street clinic and is accessible to Assistant Managers, Leaders and Key roles working with Rising Stars. The workshop covers topics such as Mental health common needs, addictions, challenges related to rough sleeping, life in night shelters and temporary accommodation.

“There is a dark side of me which is destructive but luckily […] I am not stuck in one place anymore. I am honest, open and willing to change, and I have changed thanks to few people who helped in my situation. The Rising Star Programme gave me what I needed: a job, support, therapy, development and opportunities. I did not have that before, because I wasn’t ready for it. Now I believe it is my time. I trust them and let them help me.” Magda, Rising Star

Acknowledging that most of our Rising Stars present complex needs and accepting this makes the Programme relevant, successful and unique. As well as offering an employment opportunity and the support required to access a stable and sustainable accommodation, the Rising Stars programme’s success is enabled by a holistic approach that involves fully qualified therapists, care workers and homelessness specialists. Needs such as mental health, substance abuse or misuse and physical health are discussed and handled. The programme is tailored for individuals who have experienced trauma and abuse, domestic violence, and gang violence. Some have experienced distressing childhood and family breakdown; some have been in touch with the criminal justice system. While those challenges have been identified and clear ways of working established, the one issue that has taken the support team by surprise is gambling addiction. Not easily detectable, less known and understood, gambling has been reclassified only five years ago as an addictive disorder. To address this need and support our Rising Stars to the highest standards, adjustments have been made:  the referral form our charity partners share with the Pret Foundation Trust employment managers is now more detailed so specific needs can be discussed and detected at an early stage. Specialized support groups have been identified and joined the support network available to the Rising Stars.

10 years of work did not make things easy now. The programme requires investment, resources, passion and commitment. Surprises come along and challenges arise, yet a simple initiative supported by the right structure creates long-lasting changes and turns people’s lives around for the better.

The impact of the Programme goes well beyond the individual lives and success stories of our Rising Stars. Relationships are built again, broken families get reunited, ex-offenders with a work opportunity are less likely to reoffend. Positive changes reverberate through the entire community.

The Pret Foundation Trust and its Rising Stars Programme are at the heart of Pret A Manger culture. Teams get involved and are passionate about it, changes and progress are being witnessed, challenges are being discussed and overcome, friends are being made, and joy is being celebrated.

The Pret Foundation and the Rising Stars Programme is a unique, fair sustainable way to give back simply doing the right thing.

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