Greggs delays plans to reopen 20 stores after realising how excited everyone was
The first Greggs stores were set to reopen on Monday, as the chain looked to get sausage rolls and steak bakes back on our streets again after lockdown.
But the chain has decided to change its plans to get 20 stores in the Newcastle area operating again after seeing how excited people were at the prospect.
“Due to significant interest in our 20-shop trial, and the risk that excessive numbers of customers may plan to visit Greggs, we will now initially operate these trials behind closed doors in order to effectively test our new operational safety measures,” a spokesman said.
“It was never our intention to attract high levels of customers to these trial shops, and therefore we have decided to temporarily update our test plans and operate behind closed doors only.
“We will continue to review this as we undertake our initial tests and will invite walk-in customers into our shops only when we can be confident of doing so in the controlled manner we intended.
Under the original plans, Monday May 4 was seen as the start of a a “controlled trial”.
Chief executive Roger Whiteside said he hoped the trial would let the bakery find out what changes need to be made to operate safely and meet social distancing guidelines.
But that doesn’t mean plans are scrapped entirely – merely delayed for a bit.
In a letter to staff late last month, Whiteside said he hoped to open around 700 stores, including 150 franchise shops, with new operational measures in place from June 8.
“We expect it will only be possible to open this many shops if the Government has taken a first step in relaxing the lockdown, which could be to open the schools,” the chief executive said.
“This timing may change depending on future Government announcements.”
The company predicted that sales in the stores will be “significantly lower than normal” while social distancing measures are in place.
Whiteside said it then intended to open all of its 2,050 stores by July 1, when the Government’s current furlough support package is due to end.
There is no word as yet whether the delay in opening the first stores will significantly affect this target.
Greggs bucked the trend of many fast food outlets and cafes when it closed shops – telling all staff they would retain 100% of wages while on furlough, rather than the 80% on offer at many of its rivals.
A Greggs spokeswoman said: “We want to play our part in getting the nation back up and running again, so we are planning to conduct a limited trial with volunteers to explore how we can reopen our shops with new measures in place that keep our colleagues and customers as safe as we can when we re-open at scale.”
Rivals such as Burger King, Pret a Manger, Nandos and KFC have already reopened a small number of sites for takeaway and delivery.
McDonald’s has given no official date, and is conducting trials behind closed doors, but that the chain has not denied reports that put the reopening at mid May.