Greggs bakers to open 50 shops across Northern Ireland
Bakery giant Greggs is eyeing as many as 50 locations across Northern Ireland with around 10 in Belfast alone, it can be revealed.
After years of speculation on when the cheap and cheerful pies and pasties business would come here, it launched its first store at the new Applegreen service station on the M2 in April of this year.
It's now understood commercial property firm Savills has been appointed to scout locations right across the province for the business, a British high street staple.
Savills did not wish to comment.
But the Belfast Telegraph understands the plans could include 50 new outlets here, with around 10 in the capital.
With an average of 10 employees in a Greggs store in Britain, the expansion to Northern Ireland could potentially create 500 jobs.
Greggs has 1,670 stores located across the Britain.
The UK's largest bakery chain - it is listed on the London Stock Exchange - it will soon be bringing its popular fare to Belfast and beyond.
That includes favourites already flying off the shelves at Applegreen, such as the steak bake, the sausage and bean melt and the sweet and sticky yum yums.
Greggs would not confirm details of the company's major expansion into Northern Ireland.
But a spokesman said: "We continue to view Belfast and Northern Ireland as an attractive market.
"We currently have one franchise shop open and continue to look for good opportunities to develop our estate."
Greggs is known for its range of cheap and cheerful baked goods.
And while prices vary throughout Britain, it sells items such as sausage rolls for around 80p, while its pies can be bought for upwards of £1.
Its first store in Northern Ireland greets drivers pulling in for a pitstop at Applegreen on the northbound carriageway between Glengormley and Templepatrick in Co Antrim.
Following the opening of that outlet, a Greggs spokesman described it as a "trial location".
Earlier this month Greggs weighed into the debate over the introduction of the new national living wage, which would see businesses paying their employees over 25 years of age £7.20 an hour from this April.
It said such a move would put pressure on it to raise the current low price of its pasties and sausage rolls - a selling point that its success is strongly based around.
Greggs revealed a better-than-expected 4.9% rise in like-for-like sales in the 13 weeks to October 3.
The company also expanded its range of products to include healthier sandwiches and flatbreads.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the scale, progress is being made on high-end bakery Patisserie Valerie's plans to open an outlet in Belfast.
A planning application has now been submitted to open the chain's first Northern Ireland store at Donegall Square in the city.
The chain has around 90 outlets across Britain and is valued at £320m.