Research & Insight
Activities: Desk research, venue immersion, digital audit, brand audit, team member interviews, franchisee interviews, customer interviews
Founded in 2004, LEON trademarked and popularised the category of Naturally Fast Food and pioneered many of the high street staples – stand up superfood salads and GFC – people know and love today.
And, while LEON is better known for their restaurants (60+ in the U.K.) the brand has grander ambitions; to bring convenient food that tastes good, does you good, makes you feel good and is good to the planet, to the world.
To achieve this, LEON knew they needed to move faster than launching bricks & mortar stores would allow. By moving to digital publishing, LEON could leverage a hardened community, generate awareness and help their rapid growth into franchising.
Our brief was to help the brand transform digitally; to refine the brand for digital, design & develop a platform to enable the business to scale at pace, both in terms of content and territories, and adapt to a rapidly changing business model and consumer landscape.
We visited 30+ venues in 3 countries, interviewed the head office team, GMs and team members across the estate, met customers and suppliers and reviewed their digital channels in depth. We found a business with a motivated team, a sense of purpose and a business model built to scale.
But we were also confronted with challenges of perception. “The lunch place”; “the salad place”. Even ardent fans of the brand had pigeonholed the business on axes that were not supportive of the model, while those outside London often knew of LEON as authors before recognising the restaurants.
The business had attracted a youthful core audience, appealing to the diets and values of Gen Z, but was trusted by an older demo. To stay relevant, the brand had to continue to innovate, lead the conversation on food & nutrition, and present bitesize, scrollable content that was optimised for a mobile device and mindset.
LEON had long been a rear-view concern of the fast-food juggernauts. Now, they needed to distance themselves from the pack by doing what they wouldn’t in a way that they can’t.
Everything we did had to be held accountable to a cardinal rule: LEON’s goal is to democratise food and health, and with-it opportunity. The site had to balance being broadly accessible and educational with a sense of discovery and excitement. As the internal team noted, “why should indulgence and health be mutually exclusive?”
Every feature was designed with an estate spanning 1,000 restaurants in 100 countries in mind. No indexes, no maps. And, to combat adverse perception and support a buying journey that would end on a third-party delivery, click & collect or e-comm platform for immediate purchase, menus could focus on selling the brand & the lifestyle, rather than the product for the initial release, but had to consider how to incorporate these features natively in the future.
Based on learnings in the discovery phase, we automated changes in hierarchy, look & feel by time of day; breakfast at dawn; wraps at midday. A no-brainer based on consumer behaviour.
LEON don’t want to major on allergens – this should be a prerequisite – but we knew that a large following was loyal for the brand’s approach to allergens. By creating an allergens ‘lens’ that would only show items that the user could consume, based on their dietary requirements and preferences, we were able to truly help a regularly disenfranchised community.
LEON Presents – the content arm of the site and a brand in its own right – was new to the business and the wider world. We needed to prepare an agile platform where chronology gave way to format and at-a-glance cognition of the proposition. A brand known for burgers needed to be known for investigative documentaries and cook-a-long podcasts, overnight.
By outlining content in series, rather than filters, and utilising horizontal navigation, we were able to aid education and help users find what a story to interest them, quickly.
We knew LEON as an innovative, values-based business, leading the conversation on food and nutrition. We found a team ready to break free of industry expectations, maximise their brand equity and change the world.