Greggs could open stores outside the UK after CEO Ken McMeikan revealed that he is eyeing international expansion as a way to maintain growth in the longer term.

Greggs plans to grow the number of its stores in the UK from around 1,500 to over 2,000 in the next five to seven years, but McMeikan said he is also keen to expand internationally.

"I am of the conviction that Greggs could grow internationally. You only need to look at the brands that have made that leap and have gone around the world companies such as Starbucks, the likes of Subway, McDonald’s and others. They sell a number of products that we sell at Greggs, such as coffee and hot drinks. We also have a very big market in terms of sandwiches, so along with savouries and bread rolls, these are products that will transfer across different country boundaries," McMeikan told The Financial Times. "There is a great growth opportunity for Greggs outside the UK. But the priority at the moment is growth in the UK."

McMeikan’s comments came despite Greggs’ unsuccessful foray into Belgium in 2003, where it built up a small chain of 10 shops only to close them in 2008, following losses.

Shore Capital analyst Darren Shirley said Greggs’ previous move into Belgium had "lacked conviction and a clear strategy", but welcomed a possible second attempt at international growth. "Ken has big ambitions for Greggs in the UK to take the company well over 2,000 stores over the next five years, but it makes sense to explore new markets," he said. "Greggs’ core categories of bread and savouries could be something different on the Continent where they have a culture of individual deli-based businesses."