Baker and takeaway chain Greggs has changed its mind about reopening 20 shops next week, fearing crowds of customers could gather.
All of Greggs’ more than 2,050 shops have been closed since 24 March when the UK imposed a coronavirus lockdown, even though the government allowed takeaway outlets to stay open.
The group – known for its sausage rolls and vegan snacks – had said on Monday it planned to reopen 20 shops in the Newcastle area from next Monday in a trial to see if it can operate effectively with physical distancing measures as the lockdown is eased.
However, it has now had a change of heart. “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,” said a spokeswoman on Thursday.
“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.”
Greggs had hoped that if feedback was positive from the trial it could move to phase two, with 700 shops reopening.
It had cautioned that phase two would only be possible if the government has taken a first step in relaxing the lockdown, which could be to reopen schools, allowing more people to return to work.
Greggs’ working assumption was that schools would reopen on 1 June, allowing the phase two shops to reopen on 8 June.
The final phase of its initial plan was to open all shops with new operational measures in place by 1 July, which is when the government’s job retention furlough scheme is currently scheduled to end.