The American writer Washington Irving once wrote Tales from The Alhambra which later formed the basis of several films. A North East version might be Tales from Greggs, or Travels with a recyclable coffee cup to paraphrase Robert Louis Stephenson.
Greggs is a remarkable North East success story. It started in Gosforth in 1936 and is now nationwide. Sales have grown by about 10 percent per year since 1999. Rishi Sunak could take some lessons from this. It is impossible to walk about Newcastle without seeing a Greggs, but for some in-explicable reason I could not find one in Wallsend recently.
My family is fed up with me looking for Greggs in London although they have now appeared at Kings Cross – a wise move since trains to the North go from there. A bit of levelling up – London to North East standards is needed here.
Greggs treat their workers well, and give 1 percent of their profits to charities. What really impresses me most though is the kindness and pleasantness of the staff.
Its rival Costa is owned by Coca Cola, whereas Greggs is a UK public company. Costa used to be owned by Whitbread who also own Premier Inn. Whitbread used to be a major donor to the Tory Party although they probably have more sense now.
Greggs giving to charities
Some time ago I agreed to run a church raffle and went round the local shops soliciting prizes. Greggs told me they couldn’t give me a prize since charity was controlled by head office, but they gave me the details of the person in charge. I duly rang them up and was given the OK. I went back to Greggs and came out with several trays of cup cakes. These disappeared in two minutes flat at the church function. I then continued to Costa and told them how helpful Greggs had been. The manager replied sniffily that they only gave to approved charities. “Like the Tory Party?” I replied (I should, add in case I am sued, this was not the present manager). Greggs had gone out of their way to help.
The story continues. We used to have a dog, who knew when we went shopping because we came back with a Greggs sausage. But the poor dog became poorly and is now no longer with us. I told the staff in Greggs she was poorly and they gave me a free sausage for Mollie the dog. They did not have to.
My final episode was last week. We suffered a power cut and I was obliged to go to Greggs for an early morning bacon sandwich and a cup of tea. They filled a thermos for me free. Again I offered to pay. The staff are very kind
I will no doubt encounter more episodes, but I feel we should celebrate a northern firm which can stand up to the corporate giants like Starbucks and Costa. Long may they thrive.
I am writing this on the train going to the Highlands. A branch has now opened in Inverness.