In a letter to staff, Whiteside says that 20 sites in Newcastle will reopen on 4 May as part of a “controlled trial” to evaluate what operational measures need to be kept in place to keep both staff and customers safe while the Coronavirus crisis is ongoing.
The sites will be staffed by “retail volunteers” from the business, and will only stock a limited range of products.
Whiteside adds that the company will require at least two weeks to evaluate the trial.
Should the feedback prove positive, Greggs will then move on to the second phase in its plan, which will see a further 700 sites reopen including approximately 150 that are under franchise.
The company’s hope is that it will be able to do this on 8 June, but thinks it will only be possible if the Government has relaxed lockdown measures by then.
It is currently working under the assumption that schools will reopen on 1 June.
Whiteside says he expects sales to be “significantly lower than normal” in all shops whilst social distancing measures remain in place and therefore will not be asking all team members to initially return to work, requiring some to remain on furlough for a further period of time.
The final phase in Whiteside’s plan would see all sites open with new operational measures in place by 1 July, which is when Government’s furlough support is currently scheduled to end.
By then the company hopes the next steps in relaxing the lockdown beyond reopening schools would have been announced.
“Naturally we must be acutely aware that there remains a great deal of uncertainty in how our fight against this virus will develop, and should the situation worsen for any reason, we may be required to stop or delay the implementation of our plan,” adds Whiteside.
“However, sharing our plan as soon as we are able to, should give us all a framework to base our future preparations upon.”