Behind the Work → LEON
Creating a new digital landscape, naturally
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 had 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 via 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 diluted the offer, 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 the brand was also highly 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 for 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.
Based on customer behaviour, we automated changes in hierarchy, look & feel by the time of day; breakfast at dawn; wraps at midday. The business was built on dynamism. It was our job to reflect that.
LEON don’t want to major on allergens – this should be a prerequisite – but we knew that a large following was loyal to the brand’s approach. 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 salads and 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 educate users on the content proposition and help them find what a story to interest them, quickly.
When the pandemic hit – on the eve of launch day, naturally – we adapted the site, optimising the journey for delivery and e-commerce, driving critical sales and support, alongside the LEON-led Feed NHS campaign, delivering 40,000 meals a day and raising over £1.2m.
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 help make the world a better place.
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