Greggs has said it plans to open around 100 new stores by the end of the year after a rebound in sales helped return the chain to profit.
The high street bakery business said it has an opportunity to grow to 3,000 stores as it struck an ambitious tone after withstanding the impact of the pandemic.
It told investors that the recovery in trade in recent months was “stronger than we had anticipated” as it saw strong trade in suburban areas and local high streets.
The group has also targeted growth areas such as delivery and drive-thru sales after the pandemic weighed on some core trade such as its travel sites.
Greggs said its like-for-like sales for the four weeks to the end of July were 0.4% above the levels it saw in the same period in 2019, before the pandemic struck.
The Newcastle-based business said it now expects full-year profits to be “slightly ahead” of previous predictions as a result.
New openings have also helped to buoy its total sales over the half-year to June to £546.2 million, to just short of the £546.3 million it posted in the same period in 2019.
The group saw like-for-like sales drop 9.2% against 2019 after the impact of the third national lockdown but it was lifted by the opening of 48 new sites.
Greggs had 2,115 locations at the start of July and said it is targeting 100 net openings for the current year to continue its strong growth plans.
It said this is expected to create around 500 new jobs in the second half of the year.
However, the business highlighted even more ambitious growth plans as it said it “has the opportunity to expand its UK estate to at least 3,000 shops”.
Roger Whiteside, chief executive of Greggs, said: “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.”