Analysts Shore Capital dubbed Mr McMeikan “the architect of a material modernisation of Greggs”.
Clive Black at Shore Capital said: “It is disappointing for Greggs. He is someone who is held in high regard in the industry. He has made a number of significant and beneficial changes after the long and very successful career of Mike Darrington.”
Mr McMeikan replaced Sir Mike, who had steered Greggs for 25 years before retiring.
Mr McMeikan’s legacy will include helping to fight off the pasty tax – Government plans to add VAT to hot takeaway food – and introducing concept shops and cafes as well as signing up to sell Greggs food to British military bases abroad and frozen bake-at-home goods via Iceland stores. He has also overseen a period of rapid expansion, with the group now standing at 1,500 shops and plans in place for 500 more.
The Kent-based Brakes Group has more than 10,000 staff and offices in more than 80 locations across the continent. The company is the European market leader in catering supplies and recently announced a five-year, £250m investment programme, which will be led by Mr McMeikan.
Brakes chief executive Philip Jansen, who will become chairman when Mr McMeikan joins the business, said: “Ken’s experience and skill set makes him the ideal CEO for Brakes in its next phase of growth.”
Sarah Green, regional director of the CBI in the North East, last night paid tribute to Mr McMeikan.
She said: “Ken has had a hugely successfully four years as chief executive of Greggs, during which time the company has been very innovative and diversified into many new areas. In addition he has also been a great ambassador for the business community in the North East by demonstrating how business can be a real force for good in wider society.
“As well as chairing the CBI in the region, he led a national project for the CBI aimed at tackling youth unemployment, which is a subject he cares passionately about.
“He has also been involved in some outstanding work involving the homeless and ex-offenders, where he has inspired other business leaders to engage with some of the major issues facing our society today.
“Whilst his departure is undoubtedly a big loss to the North East, I am sure he will go on to be a huge success in his new role and I wish him well.”