Greggs has announcd plans to open around 100 new stores across the UK by the end of this year and creating 500 jobs.

The move comes after the after the high street bakery business enjoyed a rebound in sales.

Greggs said it has an opportunity to grow to 3,000 stores now that it has returned to profit following a difficult year due to the pandemic.

500 new jobs

Greggs has already opened 48 new stores in the first half of this year, with the remaining branches due to open over the next six months.

Of the most recent shop openings, 70 per cent were based in car-accessed locations such as roadsides, petrol stations, retail parks and supermarkets.

At the start of July, the chain had 2,115 locations and said it is targeting 100 net openings for the current year to continue its strong growth plans.

The swathe of new stores is expected to create around 500 job opportunities in the second half of this year.

The plans to expand come as Greggs said its like-for-like sales for the four weeks to the end of July were 0.4 per cent above the levels it saw in the same period in 2019, before the pandemic struck.

Now the chain expects full-year profits to be “slightly ahead” of previous predictions.

A strong recovery

Greggs told investors that the recovery in trade over recent months has been “stronger than anticipated”, with sales particularly high in suburban areas and local high streets.

The chain has also boosted its delivery and drive-thru services, with home delivery now available from 837 branches.

The new openings earlier this year have also helped to boost its total sales over six months to June a total of £546.2 million. This is just short of the £546.3 million sales it posted in the same period in 2019.

Roger Whiteside, chief executive of Greggs, said the group will focus on “anywhere you can get in a car” with its expansion plans.

“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 too,” he said.

“We’ve opened some drive-thru sites and its 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.”

The boss, who turned vegan in 2019, said he also saw more growth potential through product innovation, such as its new vegan sausage, bean and cheese melt.

Mr Whiteside 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.”