Greggs has changed its mind about reopening its stores next week over fears that it’ll attract overcrowding that will prove to be unsafe. The takeaway store has been closed since 24th March, when the government first put the country into lockdown due to the coronavirus. The reopening plans are now under review as the company puts safety measures to the test.
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The unprecedented change of heart was announced yesterday as the group reconsidered the best way to reopen its stores.
More than 2,050 shops remain closed as the bakers works out its next move, though the company says it will be trialling its comeback without customers first.
A spokesperson for Greggs said: “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.”
The brand said it’s not a case of cancelling the reopening strategy but it simply won’t happen as quickly as they thought.
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“We will continue to review this and will invite walk-in customers into our shops only when we can be confident of doing so in the controlled manner we intended,” the spokesperson added.
The bakers is well loved for its sausage rolls and vegan options, and was likely to attract a lot of customers stuck in lockdown who have been missing their snacks.
The chain had planned to initially reopen 20 shops in the Newcastle area next week to trial its new measures to see if they could keep to physical distancing guidelines while serving customers.
It was hoped that the next step would then be to open 700 stores across the country.
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However, Greggs was timing its opening strategy alongside the government’s guidelines and said that phase two would only go ahead once the decision had been made for lockdown to be relaxed slightly, with schools perhaps being reopened in early summer.
As Boris returned to the daily briefing yesterday and any exit plan is still to be announced, Greggs has made the U-turn to keep its chain closed for the time being.
It’ll be a disappointment for many as the bakery group had been hoping to finally reopen all shops by 1st July, the date when the government’s job retention furlough scheme is scheduled to end.
It’s yet to be announced whether this will be extended as the UK lockdown continues, with politicians saying the nation is still going through the peak of the coronavirus pandemic.
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The reversal of the plan was first reported by the Financial Times.
Greggs is one of many chains to announce plans to reopen this week, as takeaway and fast food firms scramble to get back up and running.
KFC has announced it will have 100 stores open across the UK by next week, operating a delivery only service.
The chicken chain is providing a limited menu in order to maintain social distancing within its kitchens.
McDonald’s has also told its staff that it is making plans to reopen stores for delivery, though there is no definite timeline for when it will be back and taking orders.
Burger brand Five Guys has also reopened its stores in a phased plan to get all of its shops open again.
However, its initial opening was criticised as the press reported on the crowding issues as burger fans queued up outside to order.
The Edinburgh store caused such a crowd of customers that the police had to intervene in accordance with social distancing rules.
In a smarter move, fellow burger chain Burger King announced its reopening plans this week including its first drive-thru location to open up since the lockdown, with plans to reopen in every city by the end of May.
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