THE Capitalist attends the swankiest openings on the calendar, from galleries in Mayfair to fashion shows in Milan. But we’ve never seen anything like the hysteria on display at the launch of Greggs’ 200th London store on Cheapside in the heart of the City last Friday.
As staff proffered free pastries and passers-by queued to sign a “save our savouries” petition, the bakery’s chief executive Kennedy McMeikan stood there, overwhelmed by adoration on display for his FTSE 250 firm. But one VIP was missing: “We did invite George Osborne but I had no call. I’m still hopeful he’ll come.” Osborne has endured a week of ridicule after a seemingly innocuous decision to charge VAT on baked products became a major political issue, leading the government to be accused of being out of touch with ordinary people.
While munching on a lukewarm sausage roll McMeikan delivered his Churchillian call for the chancellor to act on the “roll tax”: “You still have time to change the decision. You need to listen to the UK public and help businesses stimulate growth.”
Thrusting a popcorn–coated doughnut into The Capitalist’s hands he emphasised just how popular Greggs has become:
“We’ve now got 200 stores in London and Pret a Manger only has 230 in the whole country. We’re substantially cheaper than them but we still make our sandwiches by hand in our shops every day and we bake the bread ourselves.”
And he says it’s time for snobs to drop their objections to Greggs’ cheap and cheerful approach and take a stand against the pasty tax: “Our customers are everyone from builders to barristers; we have people in suits alongside guys in hi-vis jackets.
“The only reason people don’t go to Greggs is because there isn’t one near them. Most requests I get are people writing in and asking us to open near them.” The Capitalist thinks McMeikan should now expect a flurry of emails from jokers demanding that Greggs open on Horse Guards Road – just opposite the Treasury.