Greggs is to become the latest food retailer to reopen some of its outlets despite the coronavirus lockdown.
The bakery chain, which has more than 2,050 shops, said it would open 20 of them in the Newcastle area from Monday 4 May as part of a “controlled trial”, with more to follow.
Greggs closed all its stores more than a month ago when the lockdown began.
Earlier this month, Burger King, KFC and Pret A Manger reopened certain restaurants, mainly for delivery only.
Greggs chief executive Roger Whiteside said the trial, set to last at least two weeks, would involve a limited product range and shorter trading hours.
In a letter to staff, he said that from 8 June, he hoped to open about 700 stores, including 150 franchise shops.
He intends to have all stores open again by 1 July, when the government’s job retention scheme is due to end.
However, Mr Whiteside said that timing could change, depending on future government announcements.
“We expect it will only be possible to open this many shops if the government has taken a first step in relaxing the lockdown, which could be to open the schools,” he added.
The company expects sales to be “significantly lower than normal” while social distancing measures are in place.
A Greggs spokeswoman said: “We want to play our part in getting the nation back up and running again, so we are planning to conduct a limited trial with volunteers to explore how we can reopen our shops with new measures in place that keep our colleagues and customers as safe as we can when we reopen at scale.”
Greggs customers expressed their enthusiasm on Twitter.