Gregory's: From suburban Athens to Top 10 European coffee chain

Grigoris Gregory's

It was in 1972, when Grigoris Georgatos decided to realise his dream and create his own business - Gregory's. He opened the store in Dafni, specifically on Vouliagmeni Avenue, and named and designed the company's first logo himself.

This was very innovative at the time, which is indicative of his entrepreneurship. He combines Gregory's (or Γρηγόρης in Greek) with a distinctive green.

Grigoris Gregory'sThe pites (Greek pies) he prepares have the "secrets" of his birthplace of Kefalonia, and of Polis, the birthplace of his wife, Sonia.

The products he sells includes bougatsa in 4 different flavors, cheese pie, sausage pie, ham and cheese pie, donuts and ice cream made only from sheep's milk. All prepared with fine raw materials, selected from all over Greece: feta cheese from Kefalonia, olive oil from Kalamata and eggs from Megara.

Long queues formed in the store and now Grigoris and Sonia see that they cannot satisfy all this demand. At the end of the first decade of the company's life, Grigoris has opened three stores in the southern suburbs of Attica.

The advent of the second generation

The second generation, Vlassis and Artemis, take an active role in the management of the company, where together with Sonia and Grigoris, they envision making "Gregory's" big and known everywhere.

Vlassis is the first to note that Greeks would love to enjoy their coffee on the go because they don't always have time to sit in the cafeteria. He bought professional espresso based coffee machines and launched the take away service.

At the same time, as a student, he finds that young people love sandwiches. He therefore decides to expand the product range, including sandwiches. Unique products for the season, such as the baguette with poppy seeds, tuna, mayonnaise and lettuce, are experiencing unprecedented success and acceptance.

The demand for the products is increasing, with the result that at the end of the decade it has 5 stores in Attica .

At the beginning of the third decade of "Gregory's", Vlassis and Artemis realise, in time, that in order to achieve their goal, they will have to change their development model. So in 1994 "Gregory's" turned to franchising and the first franchise stores appeared.

This is a strategic decision, very carefully planned in such a way that "Gregory's", as a parent company, supports and trains its franchisee partners, who in turn develop the staff of the store, with the aim of providing customers with the best possible service.

In 2000, the company is introduced to the Parallel Market of the Athens Stock Exchange, while also expanding in Romania with a subsidiary company, a production unit and a network of stores.

In 2001, as part of the effort for further development and innovation, "Gregory's" opens 2 stores in Eleftherios Venizelos and thus becomes the only Greek company in catering that acquires a presence at the new state-of-the-art airport of Attica.

At the end of the decade, "Gregory's" has 90 stores and experiences great recognition.

Recession brings financial problems

2002-2011 brings great challenges and upheavals. It starts optimistically with Greece joining the Eurozone and ends with a long-lasting financial crisis in our country.

However, "Gregory's", which at the beginning of 2002 has opened 100 stores, is also experiencing upheavals and continues to expand through acquisitions and mergers. Engaging, however, in other activities also increases the company's borrowing and creates financial problems.

The Georgatos family understands the new data in time and changes the management model and creates procedures and implements a rigorous recovery plan.

"Gregory's" not only quickly overcomes the crisis, but is again on an upward trajectory, achieving a healthy growth. Thus, in 2005, it also entered Cyprus, while at the end of the decade, the stores now amounted to 250.

He "knocked down" the price of coffee during the crisis

"Gregory's", during the difficult years of the crisis, and more specifically in 2012, made a very disruptive move, lowering the price of coffee from €2.30 to €1.30.

This is an action that aimed to show its customers that it is by their side with extremely low prices, so that they can continue to enjoy their coffee every day.

At the same time, in an effort to stand by the Greek society that is being tested by the continuous memoranda and "Gregory's" undertakes corporate social responsibility actions. It cooperates with the NGO "Borume" by offering hundreds of thousands of food portions for charitable purposes.

In addition, in 2015 the company created the program "Dekatiano in schools", through which he provides school meals to thousands of schoolchildren in Attica.

At the same time, the company is also spreading abroad at a rapid pace. It enters new markets such as Germany and Romania and consolidates its position with more stores in Cyprus.

Digital transformation

During this decade, seeing the evolution and power of technology, the company starts early to invest in the digital transformation of the company. Launches an app & web application to serve online orders via delivery and creates an innovative e-learning method to train store staff in real time.

Wanting to welcome the future, last year Gregory's launched a new impressive image in his stores and marks the transition to the new era. With clean lines, bright colors and inspiring messages.

On the threshold of its 50 years of operation, Gregory's has over 370 stores in Greece and in major European cities, which are visited daily by over 250,000 customers.

Gregory's

For 2021-2022, it was awarded as a Famous Brand in the Greek market and occupies the 9th place in the European ranking of the largest coffee chains.

Today, in Gregory's stores, customers can enjoy coffee, drinks, juices, pies, salads, sweets, vegan & well-being options, while recently added burgers and hot dogs to the menu.

The prospects

At the close of half a century of life, Gregory's, which last year (on a consolidated basis) had a turnover of €55 million and a net profit of €6.57 million, estimates that this year it will exceed the income it had in the pre-Covid year and improve its profitability thanks to the rationalisation of its operating expenses.

In order to deal with the inflationary pressures created this year due to the war in Ukraine, the management of the Group is implementing its medium-long-term strategic plan, the main axes of which are:

  • Maintaining and strengthening the leadership position of all sectors in Greece, through the development and strengthening of their networks and through new product initiatives and innovations.
  • Continuously upgrading the consumer experience through digital innovation and increasing their loyalty levels.
  • Rationalisation and optimisation of their operating model, through targeted investment moves to reduce energy dependence and more effective management of their operating costs.
  • Further expansion of the presence of the Group's branches in wider geographical areas of interest, by entering into partnerships with strategic partners.
  • Further development and strengthening of the Group through targeted strategic moves that will lead to the creation of added value for all stakeholders.

The movements of the major shareholder in the last six months

It is also noted that last August, Vlassis Georgatos contributed all of his shares to the newly established holding company, VG Holding.

The company's share capital amounts to €32.3 million and resulted for the most part from the contribution of the above shares as well as corporate shares held by the same shareholder in Gregory's ABEE and in four other companies.

Also, in July 2022, Gregory's ABEE proceeded to sell all of the participation it held in the affiliated company Daddy's The Bread Project IKE. This sale concerns 1,049,351 company shares, which represent 50% of the company's total shares.

Finally, in September 2022 , it transferred 5,050 shares representing 10% of the total shares it owns in its subsidiary, Air Canteen.

New stores from Gregory's ABEE and Air Canteen

In fiscal year 2021, despite the unstable economic environment, Gregory's ABEE, being the 9th largest coffee company in Europe, as stated in the annual financial statements, continued its growth unabated, increasing its turnover by approximately 15% (to €40.43 million) and the gross result by 17% (to €19 million).

The rise in pre- and post-tax profitability of the company, which simultaneously opened 9 new stores in Greece and abroad, was impressive.

At the same time, Air Canteen, with activity in the closed markets of airports, fully recovered achieving a doubling of its turnover (to €15.35 million) and a particularly significant increase in its operating profitability (€3.14 million).

As can be seen from the financial statements, the management, having drawn up a business plan, estimates that the company will return to profitability in 2019, by paying off the current loan obligations, and by strengthening the equity through profitability, it will avoid issues of the company's viability.

Finally, it proceeded to create 8 new stores in different regional airports of Greece (Thessaloniki, Santorini, Kos and Corfu), while it renovated existing stores at the Athens International Airport.

Makis Apostolou is a columnist for I Merisia.

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Guest Contributor

This piece was written for Greek City Times by a Guest Contributor