Roger Whiteside sees potential for innovations such as more vegan options (Greggs/PA)
Greggs has said it plans to create 500 new jobs and open 100 new stores after sales recovered following a difficult year.
The baker swung back to a profit after sales rebounded to the levels of before the pandemic. It said the recovery had been “stronger than we had anticipated”, helped by the easing of Covid restrictions.
Greggs reported a pre-tax profit of £55.5m for the six months to 3 July after a £65.2m loss a year earlier. The company now expects profits to be ahead of previous predictions, with some analysts saying the results were indicative of a wider improvement on UK high streets.
Laying out ambitious growth plans on Tuesday, Greggs said it had “the opportunity to expand its UK estate to at least 3,000 shops”.
Chief executive Roger Whiteside said the group would focus on “anywhere you can get in a car” as it expands.
“We’ve got high streets covered across the country, but even in areas like Newcastle and Glasgow, where we are really well represented on streets, we can open more in those areas you drive to,” he told the PA news agency.
“We’ve opened some drive-through sites and it’s still a fairly small area, but they have been successful and that’s definitely an area we can grow.
“The pandemic trends were all trends we saw previously but they’ve just been supercharged, and that’s the same for delivery, out-of-town and everything else.”
Mr Whiteside, who has been vegan since 2019, said he saw potential to grow sales through innovation such as the company’s vegan sausage, bean and cheese melt.
He added: “Greggs once again showed its resilience in a challenging first half, emerging from the lockdown months in a strong position and rebuilding sales as social restrictions were progressively relaxed.
“Whilst there continue to be general uncertainties in the market, given our recent performance we now expect full-year profit to be slightly ahead of our previous expectation.”
Total sales for the half-year to June came in at £546.2m, almost identical to the £546.3m it reported in the same period in 2019.
Like-for-like sales, which strip out the effects of store openings and closures, were down 9.2 per cent on 2019.