LEON was founded in 2004 by John Vincent and Henry Dimbleby, along with well-known chef Allegra McEvedy, with the aim to make it easy for everybody to eat and live well. LEON created the category of Naturally Fast Food; food that tastes good, does you good and is affordable.
The restaurant chain has 38 stores in total (37 in the UK and one in Amsterdam) and approached us to support it in its ambitious growth plans.
The growth opportunity
In the last two years LEON has doubled its number of stores and increased some store sales by up to 50 per cent. Last month, it opened its first overseas store in Amsterdam, the success of which has encouraged the brand to open a second Amsterdam site in February of 2017. But the business doesn’t want to stop there – it plans to open 500 new restaurants over the next decade.
John Vincent, CEO and co-founder of LEON, explained his vision for the business and how the loan from OakNorth will help it achieve its growth ambitions: “We are so happy that people across the country ask us to bring LEON to their towns and cities, and that we have seven hundred people working with us who want to grow and progress. This money from OakNorth makes it possible for us to achieve both these things, and takes us a step closer to achieving our aim of making it easy for everyone to eat and live well.”
We are so happy that people across the country ask us to bring LEON to their towns and cities, and that we have seven hundred people working with us who want to grow and progress.
How OakNorth helped
With each new Leon costing hundreds of thousands of pounds to open, the £19m provided by OakNorth will enable LEON to open 50 restaurants across Britain over the next four years and hire an additional 1,000 people. That will more than double the size of the business from its present base of 38 sites.
John explained why the business chose to do the loan with a small, new bank rather than a larger lender: “While I am very happy with our relationship with HSBC, as well as the service they’ve provided us in the past, I felt OakNorth was the right bank to take the loan forward. Their rigorous processes are on par with any of the major banks and the speed at which they operate is quite unbelievable. When we were putting the deal together, it took them five minutes to respond to emails.
"LEON set out to revolutionise fast food. Rishi and Joel at OakNorth are doing the same for banking. Antony, the LEON CFO, and I have found them incredibly good to deal with - they have a similarly positive, entrepreneurial, can-do attitude to business as we do at LEON.”
John advises that the businesses that typically succeed in the restaurant industry, are those that are run by the founders: “When founders leave, companies can lose their way. You’ve got to love the food, the team and everything you’re doing. There are a lot of empty shell businesses. It doesn’t sound very businesslike, but love is at the heart of successful businesses.”
For more information on LEON, please visit their website: