We all know that the decision to allow Pret to descend onto campus was an unpopular one among many of Exeter’s students; the big businesses have been taking over and offending the delicate sensibilities of our largely left-wing campus. But Pret is here, and it’s here to stay, so it’s important that we evaluate how much this addition benefits the campus and the students, and what other impacts it may have in Exeter.
On first glance, the new Pret in the Forum (or Prexeter) looks sleek and glamorous, and despite the relatively small space it inhabits it doesn’t feel closed off or cave-like. Instead, the layout maximises seating without compromising on the feeling of spaciousness. Wall sockets are also available for those of us wishing to catch up on last term’s lectures over our lunch break.
Service at 9.30am on opening day was fast and friendly, with the queue starting from the door to the till moving at an impressive pace; I had enough time to look longingly at all of the food I’ll be buying over the exam period before ordering my coffee.
The prices are incredibly reasonable (£2.20 for a Vanilla Americano, for example), and whilst some people may find the standard size infuriating (where is my bucket of coffee?!), it simplifies the process for everyone involved.
In this former barista’s opinion, the staff were most likely rushed through their training in order to open the store before term started, as the coffee was not to the standard usually associated with Pret. This was a shame, given the reputation this particular chain has amassed. The vanilla wasn’t mixed into my Americano, and my second drink, a standard latte, seemed despairingly under frothed and slightly more tepid than scorching. Let us hope that their coffee skills will improve to match the quality of their freshly made food.
The food, as per usual, was divine. Made in store every day, Pret promises to provide a wide variety of vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options to satisfy everyone. Unfortunately the ‘vegan fridge’ was bare on opening day, labelled up and ready for all of the variety that only Pret could bring, leaving a poor first impression.
Pret is definitely a trusty, healthy option, though. The range of food that we can expect as the term starts will be consistently high quality and force the Marketplace to improve if they want to keep customers. The one area in which Pret really has excelled is the baked goods, which were cheaper, fresher and overall better than anything offered at AMT or the Marketplace.
The range of food that we can expect as the term starts will be consistently high quality and force the Marketplace to improve if they want to keep customers.
It should be noted that the arrival of Pret on campus has decreased the study spaces available; benches and desks which were outside the Marketplace have been removed to increase accessibility to the coffee shop. This is a concern, as the seating offered within the store isn’t a communal area and therefore only customers can study there, a ploy which goes against the yearly pledges of the SABBs to provide more study space.
Overall, the centrally located Pret is most likely here to stay. It challenges the monopoly of Costa and will hopefully provide the increased food options that students have been crying out for. We can only hope that by increasing the amount of chains on campus, we will receive competitive pricing and student friendly choices to create a more financially healthy city on the hill. A very caffeinated one, it seems.