Pret A Manger is planning to launch automated self-service coffee machines as it faces severe staff shortages and dwindling commuter footfall.
The coffee giant is understood to have trademarked “Pret Express” with the UK’s Intellectual Property Office under “coffee vending machines and dispensing machines”, according to The Financial Times.
Alongside this listing Pret filed a trademark for “Pret Perks” pointing to a new loyalty scheme to go alongside this its new vending machine venture.
While a spokesperson for the brand said they “did not comment on speculation”, the move is expected to be the retailer’s latest effort to diversify its offering amid ongoing challenges to the sector.
It comes as Pret said it had been forced to close 17 stores last week as a significant portion of its staff were forced to self-isolate amid the ‘pingdemic’ crisis.
The chain has also been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic and subsequent work-from-home revolution, severely impacting its returning footfall when stores were allowed to reopen.
Last year Pret was forced to permanently close 74 outlets across the UK and a futher 22 in the US despite investors pumping in an additional £185 million.
“You now have a situation where in a train station, for example, it might not be economical to have a fully-fledged barista café while the opportunity to put coffee into a train station that can operate 24 hours is becoming more compelling,” Allegra World Coffee Portal’s chief executive Jeffrey Young commented.
He added that technology has advanced to the point where the quality of vending machine coffee was “no longer an issue” and is becoming “closer and closer to the real barista experience”.