Boss at Punch trades pints for Greggs pasties

 
Kasmira Jefford
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PUNCH TAVERNS boss Roger Whiteside will give up happy hours for elevenses when he becomes the new chief executive of bakery chain Greggs next month.

Whiteside, who has been a non-executive director at Greggs since 2008, will succeed Ken McMeikan on 4 February, the firm said yesterday.

McMeikan, who drove the government to retreat on controversial pasty tax rises last year, is leaving the firm to take over at catering wholesaler Brakes Group.

Greggs chairman Derek Netherton said Whiteside had been involved in developing group strategy in what has been a “period of significant change”.

“He is very well respected within the company and his appointment will enable a smooth transition in what is still a challenging consumer environment,” he said.

The popular chain suffered a 2.9 per cent drop in like-for-like sales over Christmas, blaming bad weather conditions, and challenges facing the high street.

As a result it has scaled back its expansion plans in favour of refurbishing existing stores in a bid to reverse falling sales.

Greggs’ shares rose one per cent yesterday on news of the appointment, which was welcomed by analysts.

“[Whiteside] brings with him significant experience that should be relevant to Greggs, having worked at businesses that have seen growth as well as faced significant challenges,” said Sanjay Vidyarthi at Espirito Santo.

The 54-year-old was one of the founding team of Ocado in 2000 before moving to become chief executive of Threshers, where he led a turnaround of the off-licence chain. Prior to that he spent 20 years at M&S.

Allison Kirkby, finance chief at media production firm Shine will take over from Whiteside as non-executive director.

Punch, whose shares fell more than two per cent yesterday, has made its chairman, Stephen Billingham, executive chairman while the pub operator restructures its business.