The billionaire Issa brothers – who own Asda and the EuroGarages petrol station chain – have publicly stated their desire to build a foodservice empire after snapping up the Leon fast food chain.
Mohsin and Zuber Issa have picked up more than 70 restaurants as a result of the deal, including 42 company-owned sites operated on leasehold locations.
In addition, Leon has 29 franchised sites at transport hubs in the UK and five other European markets, principally The Netherlands.
The acquisition of Leon is complementary to EG Group’s strategy of seeking significant growth in its non-fuel and foodservice operations.
Prior to the addition of the Leon store network, EG Group already operates over 700 foodservice outlets in the UK and Ireland of which 310 operate from standalone premises.
Despite the impact of Covid-19, EG Group’s foodservice business accounted for 46% of the gross profit of the UK&I division in 2020.
The acquisition of Leon as a proprietary brand enhances the already extensive foodservice brand portfolio operated by EG Group, which includes Starbucks, KFC, Burger King, Greggs, Sbarro, Cinnabon and Subway.
Following the acquisition, EG Group intends to invest in the Leon brand and broaden the current foodservice offer across the extensive global site network.
In a joint statement, the pair said they intend to open around 20 Leon sites per year from 2022 and see significant potential for Leon’s non-restaurant products across the EG Group’s convenience retail proposition.
They said: “Leon is a fantastic brand that we have long admired. As established entrepreneurs in the foodservice retail market ourselves, we have a huge admiration for the business that [founder] John [Vincent] and the Leon team have built over the years, and firmly believe that their culture and values closely align with our own.
“The acquisition of Leon presents EG Group with a fantastic opportunity to further develop the menu offer, the various concession formats including drive thrus, and will enable us to significantly build on the existing network by exploring opportunities across our own sites along with other strategic locations.
“EG Group continues to identify innovative partnerships and acquisitions that complement our existing consumer offer and enable us to stay at the forefront of consumer trends, particularly in foodservice. Our equity investment in Leon is to strengthen our own participation in the fast-growing contemporary foodservice segment.
“This acquisition aligns with our commitment to being a committed foodservice operator globally, delivers financial benefit to our underlying business, and supports broader commercial strategies to be able to better realise further growth opportunities.”
Mr Vincent said that it was a “sad day” for him personally having to part with a business he founded 17 years ago, but insisted it was in good hands after getting to know the Issas over the last few years.
“They have been enthusiastic customers of Leon, going out of their way to eat here whenever they visit London. They are decent, hard-working business people who are committed to sustaining and further strengthening the values and culture that we have built at Leon, a business that has my Dad’s name above the door.
“Mohsin and Zuber will not just be superb custodians of the Leon brand, through EG Group they have the vision, investment appetite, foodservice expertise and network scale to take Leon to many more people and places. This is what Leon has always been built for and I am confident under the new ownership, the brand will flourish and have even greater appeal to a broader customer base, especially outside of London.”