Leon: expanding in the US and Europe

Date : 11 May 2016

Talking with The Telegraph, Leon's co-founder John Vincent has outlined the latest steps in the healthy food-to-go specialist's growth plans, which are taking it beyond the UK for the first time.

Against the backdrop of a strong 2015

The business grew well over 2015, with total revenue up nearly 50% at £36.9m. Pre-tax profits grew at a similar rate, reaching £2.26m.

Crucially, there was significant expansion in the year, with store numbers growing by 12 to 33, and marking an important new phase for the business. In food-to-go terms, Leon is well-established as a business, with its first store opening in 2004.  However, up until last year it had been relatively cautious in its expansion plans.

Innovation drives its uniqueness

Leon's offer has long caught our eye, with a combination of largely Mediterranean inspired, healthy and wholesome dishes, and a focus on rapid, efficient service. It continues to innovate in its menu, having in the past innovated in areas such as superfood salads, and is an operator that retains considerable quirkiness and doesn't take itself too seriously (a recent innovation was a fish finger wrap). 

Amsterdam Schiphol franchise store now open, more to follow

There are now several franchised Leon stores open, operated in conjunction with HMS Host, and the latest of these was the first to open outside the UK, in Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam. Plans are in place for further franchise stores outside the UK, in northern Europe, though locations at this stage have not been confirmed.

US adventure set to begin in Orlando

Leon is also planning its entry into the US, interestingly opening its first store well away from the New York market that many have seen as the natural entry point. In a market like Orlando, the business may need to work hard on adapting the format to make it fit with local consumers.  But it does avoid the intense competition of Manhattan, which has proved the breaking of the US ambitions of many UK retail businesses. What's clear is that Leon has pushed down the accelerator on expansion: it's a format that's very much on trend around both flavours, culinary influences and health, which provides a great backdrop from which to drive further growth.