Leon, the multiple award-winning healthy fast food chain which has grown to more than 50 restaurants is to open its first location in Dublin.
The UK-headquartered group has won plaudits from food critics including Jay Rayner and Giles Coren, as well as a fistful of awards over the years. The company has also produced a number of best-selling cookbooks and teamed up with UK retailer John Lewis to launch a cookware range.
Cibus Concepts, a new franchise partnership established by Waterford accountant Stuart Fitzgerald and his business partner Brian McIntyre, intends to roll out as many as 20 Leon restaurants across Ireland by 2023.
The two have considerable expertise in casual dining, with Mr Fitzgerald in particular part of the team which holds the master franchise for the Freshii concept in the UK.
Having opened its first restaurant in Carnaby Street in 2004, Leon has expanded to 55 locations, most of which are in Britain.
Dublin represents the fifth international city location for the company, which has previously opened branches in Oslo, Amsterdam and Utrecht, and is due to launch in Washington DC in the coming months.
The Leon menu includes dishes that predominantly draw on Mediterranean food culture, with Moroccan meatballs, grilled halloumi wraps and kefir smoothies among the offerings. It was co-founded by John Vincent, renowned chef Allegra McEvedy, and Henry Dimbleby, the son of the veteran broadcaster David Dimbleby and food writer Josceline Dimbleby.
Speaking to The Irish Times, Mr Fitzgerald said the company was currently scouting locations for the first Irish branch of Leon, which he said would be in Dublin city centre.
“The Leon offering is completely different from anything available in Ireland and Irish people are going to love it. In Ireland, we’re famous for enjoying a bit of fun and having the craic, but even the Irish haven’t yet managed to make fast food fun,” he said.
“Pretty soon, people in Ireland are going to be able to enjoy healthy, fresh and flavourful fast food in an environment where the focus is on excellent food, speed of service, a big warm welcome and fun. We’re launching in Dublin later this year and can’t wait to get cracking,” he added.
Hailed by London Times restaurant critic Giles Coren as “the future of fast food”, Leon is growing at a rate of about 15 new locations a year.
It announced plans to open at least 50 sites between 2016 and 2020 and has a longer-term goal of having 500 restaurants up and running by 2026.
“It has, for many years, been an ambition of ours to be in Ireland but we needed to wait until we found Irish partners who can give Leon the love and focus it deserves. Stuart and his team are ‘Leon’ people. They are positive, courageous and like a good time,” said Mr Vincent, the chain’s chief executive.
Overall, Leon has raised about £60 million (€68 million) in funding to date, which includes £25 million in development capital from Spice Private Equity and Active Private Equity last year.
Source: Irish Times