Transport hubs still present a great opportunity, even if only half as busy as at previous levels, Greggs’ CEO Roger Whiteside has said.

Speaking at MCA’s Food to Go Conference, Whiteside there was “no question” in his mind that busy transport hubs like St Pancras International, where Greggs opened two sites in December 2020, would Bounce back.

He said: “Even if they only bounce back half as busy as they were, they’re still the busiest places I know, and the rental structures will reflect that. So that’s an opportunity.”

The Greggs boss said he was “as optimistic as ever” about new openings, with a reset in rents helping the value-led retailer access more prime sites in preparation for recovery.

“Our pipeline has never looked stronger, this pandemic will create opportunity,” he said.

“Greggs in the past has struggled to get into some of the locations that we desire, like major transport hubs and central London, because rent structures have just been too high for our value-based offer.

“But that market has changed rapidly, and opportunities are now being presented to us already.

“We’re seeing opportunities arise, both to open in places that previously we couldn’t access, and also to get better spaces in place to already operate.”

He sees drive-thrus as a strong growth area and a trend that will remain post-pandemic, even if competition for sites is fierce.

The bakery retailer currently has a relatively small number of drive-thru sites, but is seeking more, alongside rivals such as Costa Coffee, Starbucks, McDonald’s and Burger King.

Whiteside told the virtual conference: “We’ve been long been on record for saying we want more drive thrus, they have been the best performing format of all of the shop types that we have.

“Shops accessed by car have generally performed better than shops accessed otherwise, but shops where you don’t even have to get out of the car have done even better.

“We’ve not got many drive throughs, but we are very much interested in opening more. The problem is that everybody else wants them too. They are a very competitive marketplace and they can’t be redeveloped in vacant High Street sites

“You need new-builds to deliver drive-thru opportunities, which means repurposing buildings which become vacant, which can obviously be accessed by car.

“There is growing supply and we will be in amongst all of our competitors fighting for as many of those as we can get, because we think that’s a trend that will remain.”

The Greggs CEO said despite the reduction in footfall during the pandemic, as office workers worked from home, the business had held up a large proportion of its sales, by serving key workers for example.

He said: “We know that there is resilient demand for Greggs, even under lockdown conditions

“Obviously what we need now this is normal traffic back.”

You can now view the entire Food to Go Conference on demand here