Greggs’ successful transformation into an on-the-go brand means it can reach well over 2,000 stores in the UK, chief executive Roger Whiteside told CGA vice president Peter Martin at the Lunch! show in London last week.

With the bulk of its current 1,800 stores on the high street, Greggs is now turning to non-traditional locations for expansion. They include motorwayservice stations, public transport hubs, industrial parks and offices, where it has been experimenting with openings in partnership with contract caterers like Compass. “We’re versatile—we can put ourselves virtually anywhere,” Whiteside said.

The brand is also seeking new openings beyond its heartlands in the north of England, especially in the south west, and is flexing its formats from small kiosks to large eat-in stores. Saturation is a long way off, Whiteside said. “We’ll go well beyond 2,000 [stores]… there’s clearly plenty of scope for Greggs yet.”

Whiteside took the helm at Greggs four years ago, and has since led its transformation from a bakery brand into the leader of the on-the-go sector. “The time had come to focus on food on the go… that one simple step suddenly made the business simplified and focused.” Change hadn’t always been smooth, he admitted. “It was a challenge. People at Greggs had grown up with it as a bakery business, and persuading them that [on-the-go] was the right thing was something we couldn’t take for granted. We had to make them believe, and you do that by being successful.”

Whiteside’s next target at Greggs is to push it deeper into three sectors: coffee, healthy eating and hot food. Nailing coffee helps to unlock the breakfast market, while becoming known for fresh, hot food could lead it into evening operations, he argued. Some Greggs stores in travel hubs already open round the clock, but there is potential for more sites to trade into the early evening when on-the-go eating options become limited. “I don't think we’ll ever get into the sit-in restaurant market, but that 4pm to 8pm slot is an opportunity for Greggs.”

The brand is serious about promoting healthier eating options, Whiteside said. “We’re actively encouraging you to eat more healthily. We don’t want you to eat sausage rolls every day, even though we sell more sausage rolls than anyone. But when you do, we want you to get them from us.”

The company is also dipping its toe into deliveries, initially to offices, though the challenge for a value brand like Greggs will be to make it pay, Whiteside said. “Customers want delivery, and I wouldn’t have thought that three or four years ago. The question is: can anyone make money out of it? I don’t know yet, but we’re certainly keeping an eye on it.”

Drive-throughs—the first of which recently opened in Manchester—are another opportunity, he added. “We’re looking for as many as possible.”

     

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