Greggs is looking to capitalise on the increasing number of empty retail units, and lower rents, in London, with the changing market conditions giving it access to previously unaffordable areas of the capital.

Speaking during a press conference following the food to go retailer’s full year results for the 53 weeks ended 2 January 2021 yesterday (16 March), chief executive Roger Whiteside said that while the majority of its pipeline was in place pre-Covid, the pandemic had opened up some areas “we have previously found difficult to access”.

He said the availability of sites in central London, including the City, and mass transport hubs had climbed as there were fewer business competing for them, and the business was keen to snap up opportunities when they arose so it is well placed for when normal commuting resumes.

Whiteside said it had been difficult to break into the City of London previously “as we were not prepared to pay that level of rent”, but now those sites were much more attractive. “We are looking at half a dozen sites in central London, in zones one and two, and we have got negotiations around the country in other transport hubs,” he said.

Whiteside told MCA that it is planning to use the integration of its loyalty scheme with click and collect to offer a ‘build your own sandwich’ function for customers.

The Greggs Rewards loyalty scheme was launched nationwide in October last year, with click and collect made available at all shops in September. The new services will now be brought together in a new app which is being piloted ahead of launch in the second quarter of 2021.

He said Greggs had moved quickly on click and collect, but the only way it had been able to do that was develop the service as a separate web application – “that was never going to be the long-term solution”.

Whiteside said that once click and collect was fully integrated in the app “we will be able to start to offer enhanced services for customers”. He explained there were two key factors that appealed about click and collect – the fact that customers are guaranteed availability, and the ability it gives Greggs to offer customised food orders.

He said that for customers that are “fussier” about their food and may otherwise go elsewhere, this service as another opportunity to take market share.