It’s a common lunchtime question — should we buy a sandwich from Eat or Pret, two local sandwich shops within equal distance of the office.

This day, however, my colleague surprised me.

“Lets go to Pret. I’ve decided I hate Eat, the people in there are so grumpy.”

You know, I think he might be right. As we purchased our sandwiches in Pret, I noted the enthusiastic smile that met us. A big cheery smile, not just a little flicker at the corner of the mouth.

The next day I insisted we go to Eat, to check out if the people there are really that grumpy. I’m not sure if they’re grumpy, but they did seem a bit sullen. A little more world-weary. I can’t imagine that serving sandwiches is a terriably well payed job. And living expenses in London are notoriously high — so these folk probably don’t have the easiest of lives. It kind of showed.

Several years ago, in a previous job, I used to buy a morning coffee in a local Pret. Because I went there regularly, the servers got to recognise my face and I was often greeted with a cheery “Hi, how are you?”. And they’d give me a free coffee once every week or two. Not necessary, but very much appreciated.

I don’t know much about Pret, but it seems they have created a real people culture — one that aims to please customers and create a little joy in life.

The Apple Store is similar — happy people that make you want to hang out there. A little oasis in a difficult world.

I once arrived a few minutes before opening time at an Apple Store and was treated to the applause they give to waiting customers when the doors open. It was a little surreal, but also impossible not to smile. When a guy in a blue t-shirt is grinning like a Cheshire Cat and clapping loudly at you, it’s impossible to do anything else.

Why don’t more businesses invest in creating a culture of happiness and enthusiasm? It might seem a small thing, but it makes me smile. Smiling is infectious. We should do more of it. It might not be very “British” of me, but I approve of these slightly “American” shows of enthusiasm.

I think I prefer the food in Eat, but going to Pret is an altogether more joyous occasion.

Eclectic tastes, amateur at most things. Learning how to build a new startup. Former CTO for IBM Watson Europe.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store