Spice Private Equity, a Swiss investment company, has invested £25m to acquire a significant minority stake in Leon, the healthy-eating, fast-food chain.
Leon currently operates 46 sites in the UK and two in the Netherlands. It is looking to launch in the US later this year.
Spice said its investment would help Leon to pursue its growth plan in the UK and internationally. With the transaction, Spice will become the largest shareholder of Leon, working in partnership with the chief executive and co-founder, John Vincent and Active, a long standing investor in the business.
“Leon is a disruptive fast-food model that was born in the UK but has an immense potential to become global. 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”, said Fersen Lambranho, member of the board of directors of Spice and chairman of GP Investments, the controlling shareholder and manager of Spice.
“To be successful Leon needs the right purpose, the right leaders and the right investors. To become the world’s leading naturally fast food company we need partners who share the vision and can help make it happen. We are fortunate to have been approached by many potential partners. The decision to say yes to Spice was because of the high regard I have for the individuals of GP Investments, who manage Spice. I am also delighted that Active, our existing investor who has been so helpful to our growth, is participating in this fundraising too”, says Mr. John Vincent, Leon’s co-founder and chief executive.
Last August, the company, which was founded in 2004, said it would open 50 new sites over the next four years after securing a new funding deal worth £19m from bank OakNorth.
The group, which recently opened in Paddington Station, is expecting to double its headcount in the next 12-15 months from 1,000 staff to 2,000.
Speaking at MCA’s Food to Go Conference earlier this year, managing director John Upton said Upton said he was expecting significant growth for the brand outside of its London heartland.
Upton said: “There’s lot of growth for us out in the regions. We’ve opened in Brighton, Oxford Richmond, we’re already in Birmingham. We’re opening in Manchester soon. We almost made it to Glasgow, Edinburgh is looking very exciting and we hope to be in Leeds by the end of the year.
“There is a London centricity at times but the UK is full of wonderful hospitality leaders, and I think Leon is ideally placed to hoover up that talent.”