Greggs expects to create around 500 new jobs in the coming months as profits bounced back to outstrip pre-pandemic levels.
The high street bakery chain, which had 2,115 shops at the start of July, plans 100 net openings this year.
Striking an ambitious tone, Greggs said it had the opportunity to grow to at least 3,000 stores.
Greggs said it had the opportunity to grow to at least 3,000 stores
It came as the business revealed a pre-tax profit of £55.5m for the 26 weeks to 3 July, compared with a £65.2m loss for the same period last year.
It is also up on the 2019 first-half figure of £40.7m.
The Newcastle-based company told investors the recovery in sales in recent months was “stronger than we had anticipated” with strong trade in suburban areas and local high streets.
The group has also targeted growth areas, including delivery and drive-thru sales after the coronavirus pandemic hit some core trade such as its transport hubs.
Greggs said its like-for-like sales for the four weeks to the end of July were 0.4% above the levels it saw in the same period in 2019, before the COVID-19 crisis.
As a result, the group said it now expects full-year profits to be “slightly ahead” of previous predictions.
New openings have also helped to bolster its total sales over the half-year to June to £546.2m, to just short of the £546.3m it posted in the same period in 2019.
The group saw like-for-like sales drop 9.2% against 2019 after the impact of the third national lockdown but it was lifted by the opening of 48 new sites.
Greggs chief executive Roger Whiteside said: “Greggs once again showed its resilience in a challenging first half, emerging from the lockdown months in a strong position and rebuilding sales as social restrictions were progressively relaxed.
“We continue to make good progress with our strategic priorities, growing the shop estate and investing in our digital capabilities to compete in all channels and parts of our market.
“Whilst there continue to be general uncertainties in the market, given our recent performance we now expect full-year profit to be slightly ahead of our previous expectation.”
Domino’s benefited from England’s performance in the Euro 2020 tournament
Meanwhile, Domino’s Pizza Group has said a “strong” performance by its UK and Ireland business has helped it more-than-double its profits for the past six months.
The pizza delivery business leapt to a pre-tax profit of £41.3m for the 26 weeks to 27 June, compared with a £19m profit for the same period last year.
The group also said the second half of the year has “started well” as it has benefited from marketing investment and England’s performance in the Euro 2020 tournament.
Dominic Paul, chief executive officer of Domino’s, said: “The strong trading in the first half of the year provides us with the firm foundations for the delivery of our strategic growth objectives, which build upon our strengths in both delivery and collection.
“This will enable us to deliver strong system sales growth and increase our store numbers in the UK and Ireland.
“Whilst the external landscape remains uncertain, the second half has started well.
“I believe our agile business model leaves us well placed to capitalise on the significant opportunities ahead while continuing to invest in our strategy, which will deliver benefits for franchisees and shareholders alike.”