- British fast food chain Leon shuttered all four of its U.S. stores, which are located in Washington, D.C., and Virginia, Leon USA president Glenn Edwards confirmed Tuesday. The company was "devastated by COVID-19," and had only managed to keep one American store — located in the District — open over the last 12 months, with volume down 85%, Edwards wrote in an email.
- The chain opened its fourth U.S. restaurant in Fairfax, Virginia, in August 2020, which delivered just 25% of revenue expectations, Edwards said. Leon permanently closed its American outposts in late January after "limited landlord support across the estate," Edwards said. The chain filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation in early February.
- "We are now focusing on re-building LEON in the UK & Europe, where our journey to make fast food, good food started 17 years ago," Edwards wrote."For now, we have to focus on survival. The US remains our long term number one priority.
Leon first dipped its toe in the American market in 2018 with its first store in Washington, D.C., after a $32.6 million cash infusion by private equity backers. Prior the pandemic, the chain planned to grow its U.S. footprint to 15 stores by 2020.
The company aimed to transform the American concept fo fast food with high-quality, health-focused fare typically associated with fast casual brands. But Leon was a true QSR that operated on a pre-assembled, fresh-made meal model that allowed it to process orders in 12 minutes.
Leon chose to begin its American expansion in Washington, D.C., rather than New York City, the usual target market for international expansion, because the city's walkability and progressive culture mirrored the restaurant's home market of London.
CEO John Vincent said in 2019 that he hoped to eventually expand Leon into channels like ballparks and event spaces, and to franchise the restaurant across the U.S.
Leon isn't the only international restaurant transplant that has struggled amid the pandemic, however. In May, Le Pain Quotidien's U.S. division filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and sold itself to franchising group Aurify Brands. Without this deal, the chain would have been forced to shutter its 98 U.S. restaurants. Through the purchase, it was able to retain 35 stores and 1,000 jobs. Le Pain was already exploring bankruptcy before the COVID-19 crisis, however, but couldn't recover after it had to temporarily close all of its U.S. outposts and lay off all of its 2,000 employees.