It will surprise many to know that Leon Restaurants has only just turned 11 — surprising because it feels like the popular chain has been an established part of the market forever, particularly in central London, which has been responsible for much of its growth to date.
When Leon burst onto the scene as a ‘natural’ alternative to the traditional fast food incumbents, many questioned whether the lure of health-conscious dishes inspired by Mediterranean cooking would really be strong enough for customers to ignore their fried food cravings and turn to something healthier. But the firm has defied the doubters and that in turn has kept Glenn Edwards and his highly-rated operations team incredibly busy as they look to ensure that existing stores are maintained and new stores are equipped to go off with a bang.
There have been some key highlights over the past year as the chain has worked through a programme of 12 new store openings, including the launch of its first site at Stansted Airport. The team’s brief for that restaurant was to make the traditional Leon high street brand workable within a busy and demanding airport environment. Given that peak volumes and demands within the airport exhibit different pattern to Leon’s high street branches, extra focus was put on making sure the kitchen contained high quality and durable catering equipment to meet the demand.
The schedule for the next 12 months is likely to remain hectic. Co-founder John Vincent recently revealed in a newspaper interview that the company is keen to break out of London and expand nationally into places such as Bristol, Leeds, Cambridge and Oxford. This month sees the opening of an outlet at Birmingham’s New Street station, with more sites in England’s second city to follow. And when that’s done, the brand has ambitions to transport its healthy eating philosophy across the Atlantic and give the US market a crack. With sales up 40% year-on-year over the last two years, Leon has every right to aim high.
“Extra focus was put on making sure the kitchen contained high quality equipment to meet the demand”