Pret chief joins Merlin to drive digital and data overhaul

sarah venning 2Merlin Entertainments, the global company behind Alton Towers, Legoland, Madame Tussauds, Sea Life Centres, London Eye and Blackpool Tower, has recruited a new digital and data boss as part of plans to build a “world-class digital strategy”.

Sarah Venning joins as chief digital and data officer from Pret A Manger, where she has been global digital officer since 2019, leading the company’s digital transformation.

During this time Pret launched its first loyalty scheme, Pret Perks, set up a coffee subscription service, opened click and collect, expanded delivery services with Deliveroo, Uber Eats and Just Eat and developed its own mobile app.

Prior to Pret, Venning spent six years at John Lewis Partnership, latterly as director of group IT, strategy and architecture, and three years at BAA (Heathrow Airport), as director of IT performance and planning. She has also had spells at tech consultancy Langsdale Crook, Emap, Boo.com and PwC.

Merlin says that in her new role Venning will co-lead business transformation efforts and “focus on bringing together the key areas in Merlin’s technology, data, and digital capabilities to build a world-class digital strategy and deliver a seamless digital experience for guests and over 30,000 Merlin team members”.

Venning said: “Merlin is a company defined by its people, culture and dedication to innovation and I am excited to help drive the next phase of growth. Merlin’s extraordinary global locations will become ever more social, connected, and immersive through the power of digital and data.

“With the whole team, we look forward to designing an incredible next-generation experience for our guests.”

Merlin chief executive Scott O’Neil commented: “Sarah is passionate about bringing together physical and digital experiences for both guests and teams and is deeply interested in how to build teams and create a strong sense of belonging, and in enabling businesses to take better decisions through harnessing powerful data.”

O’Neil explained that, as Merlin begins the next phase of growth across its Legoland Resorts, Resort Theme Parks, and Midway attractions around the world, it recognised it needed to add talent that maps to its ambitions.

He added: “Sarah is the type of extraordinary executive who will lead us there. Innovation, creativity, passion, and the discipline to do the heavy lifting are all hallmarks of this company, and a perfect fit for a leader like her.

“Sarah’s experience in driving change, attracting talent, building teams, and transforming companies will set Merlin on the next step of our trajectory, as our guests look for us to continue to be ahead of the curve on our innovative digital journey.

“Across all of our 140+ attractions, our focus will be on working with the most exciting brands, delivering the best customer service, and all while providing guests with a truly personalised digital experience they have come to expect.”

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