Leon, a 'Naturally Fast Food' Concept from the U.K., Makes U.S. Expansion a Top Priority
In a recent article in Adweek, staff writer Diana Pearl took a look at Leon, a 15-year-old British healthy fast-food brand that is making inroads into the U.S. following its expansion into three other countries.
Featuring a discussion with brand founder and CEO John Vincent, the article included his thoughts on lessons he's learned since the company entered the U.S. in September 2018 in Washington, D.C.; his motivation to found the brand; and what the future looks like for Leon globally, including making the U.S. a top priority.
With 73 total locations worldwide - 60 in the U.K, 10 in the rest of Europe (Norway, the Netherlands, and Ireland), and 3 in the U.S. - Leon is handling its entry into the U.S. at the corporate level, rather than through franchising.
"Going into America, we understand that we need to learn, to be more nimble and agile," he said in the article. "If it was a franchise, we would be divorced from it." Establishing an office in the U.S. enables the brand to make changes more quickly to adapt to local preferences, he said.
Vincent told Adweek that the company chose Washington, D.C., because of its history as the birthplace of chains like Sweetgreen and Cava, providing "precedent for it being a place where you could export the brand to other cities."
Vincent said he's a fan of fast food and grew up enjoying his forays to Burger King and McDonald's. Yet in 2004, he started Leon, a restaurant "to make the food that would exist if fast food existed in heaven," he said in the article. The brand's tagline, "Naturally Fast Food," includes an international mélange of items such as gluten-free chicken nuggets, baked fries, a chargrilled aioli chicken wrap, lentil masala, Brazilian black bean, Moroccan meatballs hot box, crushed pea salad, and mince pie. Other highlights from the article include:
- Cultural and culinary differences - Becoming a U.S. business means learning to adapt on many levels. Vincent said U.S. restaurants are more technologically advanced than their U.K. counterparts, with more restaurant-owned apps and options for ordering online. And, as ever when bringing any brand into a new country and culture, there are differences in tastes and ingredients, as well as how food is prepared and served that must be accommodated.
- Sustainability - All Leon restaurants are powered by renewable energy (solar in the U.K. and turbine and wind power in the U.S.) and use locally sourced ingredients, according to the article.
For more from Vincent about Leon's future in the U.S. - from recognizing a gap in the fast food sector for "naturally fast food" to the U.S. cities the brand is considering entering next, read the full article here.
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