Sunday 25 August 2019

Leon plots further expansion as sales get a vegan boost

The healthy fast food chain made its debut in the US last year.

Leon plans to open another 20 branches this year (PA)
Leon plans to open another 20 branches this year (PA)

By Alys Key, Press Association City Reporter

Leon has posted a fifth year in a row of growth as consumers flocked to the healthy fast food chain for vegan and vegetarian food.

Total sales in 2018 were up 24.5% to £95 million, boosted by the opening of nine new restaurants.

The expansion created 270 jobs and took the brand to the US, Norway and Spain for the first time.

Underlying performance at existing sites was also strong, with like-for-like sales 15.2% higher.

Adjusted earnings remained steady at £3.5 million for the overall business, though in the UK earnings jumped 8.3%.

John Vincent, chief executive and co-founder, said: “2018 was a strong year for Leon. Against a tough backdrop for our industry, our fantastic team showed that when you have a great menu, excellent service and welcoming locations, people will come.”

Changing diets among UK consumers provided a boost for Leon last year, with vegetarian food accounting for 46% of sales, and within that 34% were vegan.

The trend looks set to continue, with vegetarian options accounting for 64% of sales by January 2019 and more than half of all food sold was vegan.

The brand’s rapid growth comes at a time of uncertainty for the restaurant industry, with casual dining brands such as Giraffe, Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Prezzo all shuttering sites.

Mr Vincent said: “We have all seen the struggles being faced by the casual dining industry, with cautious consumers choosing carefully at the same time as businesses contend with increased costs, and so we take nothing for granted.

“However, seeing the business deliver 18 consecutive months of like-for-like growth whilst opening a further nine restaurants shows we’re responding to the challenge in the right way.”

The company plans to open up to 20 new branches over the next year, over half of which will be outside the UK. Its stated aim is to reach every major city in the world.

New openings in the pipeline include Wimbledon, London’s Southbank, Leeds and Dublin’s Temple Bar.

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