The much-loved high-street chain bakery has gone from strength to strength under chief executive Roger Whiteside, who has announced he’s leaving the company in May
While other high street shops have struggled, bakery chain Greggs is thriving.
If you walk past one of their shops at lunchtime, it’s not unusual to see a queue snaking out the door, with customers eager to get their hands on a sausage roll or iced bun.
But this wasn’t always the case – in 2013, profits had nosedived and customers were unimpressed with the fare on offer, and voted with their feet.
Since then, the Newcastle firm has turned their fortune around, with their sausage rolls now sold at a stonking rate of nearly five every second – around 145 million a year.
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But what is the secret behind their success?
Their turnaround in fortune is attributed to chief executive Roger Whiteside, who helped make Greggs a success once more by focusing on supplying food that can be eaten on the go.
This meant opening for longer – including a few drive-thru’s that are open 24-hours a day, catering to truck drivers and shift workers.
And he hit the nail on the head when he identified that fewer Brits were eating breakfast at home – with the bakery offering a sausage roll and cuppa for less than £3.
People also love the ethics of the company – with the chain sharing 10% of its profits with every member of staff, so long as they have been at the company for a year
He has just announced plans to retire this year – and will be replaced by Roisin Currie, the company retail and property director.
The executive has headed the company during interesting times and we’ve taken a look back at some of the most memorable moments.
In 2017, Greggs apologised after replacing Jesus with a sausage roll in a nativity advertisement.
The image – designed to advertise its advent calendar – featured an image of three wise men watching a sausage roll in a manger.
Another image featured Father Christmas eating a classic sausage roll, with crumbs of pastry in his beard
Its decision sparked criticism from The Rev Mark Edwards, of Tyne & Wear, who said it showed “a total disregard and disrespect of one of the greatest stories ever told”.
“It goes beyond just commercialism, it’s showing a total disregard and disrespect towards one of the greatest stories ever told, and I think people of all faiths will be offended by this,” he added.
Greggs said it was “sorry to have caused any offence”, adding that it wasn’t their intention.
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Staff working for the chain learn that each pastry has unique markings on top – meaning it’s easy to identify each product.
In the Channel 5 documentary Inside Greggs: Britain’s Best Bakery ex-store manager Jamie Dear gave an insight into the business.
Describing the markings, he said it’s like “learning another language”.
For example, the corned beef pastry has a zig-zag line going across it, the sausage and bean have three horizontal slits and the cheese and onion bake has got giant Vs.
Piers Morgan row
The TV presenter started a very public row with the company after they announced they were launching a vegan sausage roll.
On Twitter, Morgan accused the company of being run by “PC-ravaged clowns”, to which the company jokily replied: “Oh hello Piers, we’ve been expecting you.”
On Good Morning Britain, he took part in a taste test – where he branded it “disgusting” and spat it into the bin.
He then asked: “Why would anyone eat this?”
It seems the 56-year-old hasn’t relented since – as he shared a snap of his ‘worst’ Christmas present in December – a bauble shaped like a vegan sausage roll.
Meanwhile, the company says the Quorn-and-puff pastry offering is now one of its top ten most popular items.
We’d say Greggs won that one.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.