When you first heard of Sky1’s plans to make a documentary about Greggs, I bet you smiled. The bakery chain – beloved for their bacon sarnies and sausage rolls – holds a special place on our high street, particularly in the north, where it attracts a wide-ranging demographic, from bleary eyed youngsters seeking a cure for their pounding hangovers, to loyal locals meeting for their weekly prayer group.
But while we’ve heard all too much about the artery-clogging content and exact calorie count of our favourite Greggs cheese scone, what we don’t see enough of is the characters working tirelessly behind the scenes of the baking giant…
Take Claudette, for example. 23 years of service working at an East London branch of the chain, she’s got a bone or two to pick with her superiors. “I do the job of a ballerina and my uniform doesn’t fit it. Right now my trousers are being held up by a shoelace. Would you like to see it?”
Claudette is just one of a wonderful array of characters that makes the delightfully-named More Than Meats the Pie a pleasure to watch. And what she doesn’t yet know is her long list of gripes with her employer is about to receive some well-overdue attention. Because Greggs is going upmarket, with a new selection of “posh nosh”, a string of refitted stores and – to Claudette’s delight – a new uniform.
Alison Kibler is the retail development manager tasked with redesigning and renovating ten northern branches within the space of just two months. Behind her overwhelmingly bright eye shadow is an eye for the artisan bread and giant cupcakes she’s hoping will “lure in the cappuccino-quaffing classes”. Wave goodbye to creaking stotty-go-rounds and say hello to sparkling deli counters and, er, rustic delivery bikes adorning the walls.
Although what poor Alison didn’t count on was the vehement backlash from the local punters of her refitted stores who are all too keen to share their outrage at the new decor. “Absolutely ridiculous” declares one of Thirsk’s loyal customers, “It’s disgraceful,” announces another, before adding to her fellow gaggle of daily visitors: “I think it’s back to Wetherspoons, ladies.” Ooh-er.
But what Greggs’ loyal customers aren’t aware of is the weeks of hard graft that have gone into transforming their favourite eatery. Product quality manager John – responsible for rolling out 4,000 scones, 10,000 loaves and 50 giant cupcakes for the ten new stores – is a busy man, but inbetween his busy shifts at Greggs’ Newcastle production line he fantasises about giving The Great British Bake Off’s Paul Hollywood and his plaited loaves a piece of his mind. “I can tell him how he should be making it rather than what he says on the telly,” he muses. “Sometimes it’s like he’s reading it out of Enid Blyton.”
And while John ponders life’s great matters to the tune of Big Bad John, elsewhere in head office top-notch scientists are consulting computer graphs as they conduct some texture analysis on a pack of hot cross buns (yes, really…) Meanwhile, it’s back to the baking board for the workers in the refitted stores as they gather in front of chef Andy to learn all about the company’s new on-request deli counter. “The eyes of the world are upon you,” utters Greggs’ chief executive Ken McMeikan. This is inspiring stuff.
You see, without the likes of John, Alison and Claudette (whose willing tirades deserve their own spin-off series), this profile of the familiar high-street chain would be a safe, but enjoyable, hour-long detour. But the delightfully entertaining mish-mash of characters gathered here to express their opinions on everything from boozy rum babas to disposable cutlery make for a hilarious rundown of the various facets of Greggs’ sprawling business. From devoted shop manager Sarah who wells up as her store is closed for refurbishment to the elderly couple living in Thirsk who reserve the same table for their grandchildren every Saturday morning, you cannot fail to be entertained by this engaging collection of characters. Don’t believe me? There’s only one way to find out…