Truly Unique Offering
Why can’t fast food be good food? The mission of LEON is to answer this question and prove that it can be by serving naturally fast food that not only tastes good but does you good too. RLI spends some time with Glenn Edwards, Managing Director of LEON to learn more about the concept and how they are going about changing people’s perceptions of fast food.
The idea of fast food changes as people grow up. As children, it was presented as a treat and something out of the ordinary, but as you grow up you begin to understand its food born out of necessity and isn’t actually that good for you. Looking to change this stereotype, three friends came together over twenty years ago and set out to make seasonal, high-quality fast food that does you good available to everyone.
Since the launch of the first LEON site in London in 2004, they have been determined to create a revolution in the fast food industry by making products that are fresh and bursting with flavour. The menu draws inspiration from the richness, flavours and natural healthiness of Mediterranean cooking. Celebrating the natural rhythms of nature, the menu changes across the seasons and is packed with plants, good sources of fat and flavours through the use of fresh herbs and spices.
Today, over two decades later, this mission remains the same. LEON continues to provide delicious, nutritious, fast food options, making it easier for everyone to eat and live well.
The business currently operates 80 restaurants, which are predominantly situated in London with others across the UK and four sites in the Netherlands.
“Within our portfolio, Hanover Square is a beautiful new restaurant – it is really spacious and has two entrances, one leading to Oxford Street, the other towards Hanover Square, so it is literally in the middle of the shopping district,” explains Glenn Edwards, Managing Director of LEON. “The beauty of the location is that, not only is it right next to the new Elizabeth Line exit; but it also serves tourists, local office workers and shoppers, so there is a fantastic audience mix. It is also one of our largest sites with nearly 100 covers.”
Another recent launch was their first Somerset restaurant in Bath – a beautiful location opposite the Roman baths. This site has been well received by locals, tourists, shoppers and students alike. Finally, another recent opening was its Stansted Landside site, which is exceeding sales expectations.
With a strong presence in the UK and a growing store contingent in the Netherlands, the company is next opening a new restaurant in a brand new market, Italy. As well as working on this launch into a new market, they are looking to expand further by focusing on their home market, with additional regional sites that complement each community they are a part of.
Discussing new products and their position in the market, Edwards explains that at LEON, they have a really strong team of chefs, where everyone has a genuine love of food. He goes onto say that their chefs enjoy experimenting with new flavours and ingredients, are always looking to the future to see what the markets are doing, all the while underpinning this against the core values of the brand of helping everyone live well, with a focus on gut health.
“Whilst focusing on customer experience is key for us, we are all about the food and believe good food is ultimately what drives the majority of our brand loyalty. In addition to this, we are working on LEON’s next generation of loyalty programmes and customer benefit schemes,” Edwards Highlights.
As the topic of our conversation turns to social media and its place and importance in the world of modern retail, Edwards recalls that social media is just like being at a party – meaning it is all about creating good conversation, listening and engaging genuinely, as well as asking questions. He feels that as long as they are being good party guests at LEON then they are doing something right.
Over the course of its history, LEON has created the category of Naturally Fast Food: food that tastes good, does you good, is affordable and is kind to the planet. They are continuously striving to find new ways to be kind to the planet and their customers with carefully curated menus. They have had some exciting achievements and are part of some great initiatives (such as the National Cup Recycling Scheme) but they are still learning and are focused on making genuine impact in the area of sustainability without greenwashing.
The last few years have been a time unlike any seen before it due to the pandemic, which caused untold problems for the retail market all around the world. For LEON, who first properly developed their digital strategy back in 2017, the past few years have seen their involvement in this sector accelerate because of this. When talking about enhancing their digital strategies, Edwards notes that the speed of which they have developed their digital output, they have seen the overall F&B market change at a similar breakneck speed.
“While we can talk about many different facets of the company, the bottom line is people love our food,” Edwards highlights. “Generally, people have fallen out of love with fast food but our mission to serve food within this category that tastes good and does you good, is what both differentiates us and drives our success.”
He continues by saying that ultimately they are a challenger brand, taking on the conventions of fast food to create a truly unique offering and that their ethos is to create a better place holistically and help people live positively.
“Over the past few years we have seen several challenges and what has helped us to overcome these is adaptability and agility. You have to be willing to evolve and ultimately roll with the punches. It is hard to know what the next big challenge will be without a crystal ball, but we carry the spirit of learning and adjustment, to find strength in challenges. In terms of what lies ahead, this is our journey towards becoming the best we can be, helping people to live well and supporting our amazing teams,” Edwards concludes as our time with him runs out.