Leon Raises £25M To Kickstart Overseas Expansion Plans

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LONDON, United Kingdom — Healthy fast-food chain Leon has secured £25m in funding from Swiss private equity firm Spice, as it prepares for international expansion.

The British chain, which operates 45 outlets in the UK and a further two in the Netherlands, plans to launch in the US later this year.

“Leon is a disruptive fast-food model that was born in the UK but has an immense potential to become global,” explained Fersen Lambranho, member of the Board of Directors of Spice, which is headquartered in Switzerland.

“We see Leon as an opportunity to replicate the great success of a former investment, Fogo de Chão, a Brazilian steakhouse that expanded into the US and is now listed on the NASDAQ.”

According to Leon’s Co-Founder and CEO John Vincent, Leon aims to become the world’s leading natural fast food company. To do so, he argues that the business needs the right purpose, the right leaders and the right investors.

Having been approached by a number of potential partners previously, Vincent revealed that the decision to say yes to Spice lay with the “high regard” he has for GP Investments, which manages Spice. A leader in alternative investments in Latin America, with a strong presence in asset management, GP Investments currently has investments in private equity and real estate, in addition to its direct stakes in BRZ Investimentos, an asset management subsidiary, and in Spice.

Together with Active, Leon’s existing investor, which has been instrumental in its growth so far, both investors will continue to support the company’s vision, explained Vincent.

With plans to open 50 new restaurants in the UK by 2020, and a five-year deal with food travel experts SSP, to open outposts across a number of train stations in the UK, Leon isn’t taking its eye off the domestic market. However, Vincent is keen to tackle the US, albeit cautiously.

“The principle is to fire bullets, then cannonballs. No one from the UK goes to America and sees it as an easy ride. Just because we speak the same language doesn’t mean to say we have the same culture. We’ll learn so much and make tonnes of mistakes,” Vincent told the Evening Standard.

Having hit £36.9m in revenue in 2015, Leon shows little sign of slowing down, and as more consumers continue to switch to healthier fast-food options, the brand’s goal of operating 500 sites by the end of 2026 is moving closer than ever.

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