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Leon: ‘Being green still costs more’

Leon

Leon says it is committed to ensuring energy in its restaurants is sourced sustainably and used responsibly after reiterating the growing measures it is taking to boost its green credentials.

The healthy fast food chain provided details of its sustainability endeavours in its latest financial accounts, which were published this week, but admitted that becoming a greener business is still expensive.

“The dream is that whatever we take from nature, we find a way to keep reusing, so we create a closed loop system, the basis for a circular economy,” the company stated.

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“The reality is that this is complex, it still costs more and it is reliant on a number of other participants like council, transport hub and office waste management operations.”

A majority of the company’s restaurants where it buys electricity itself are powered by 100% renewable UK energy and it only uses electricity in its kitchens, not gas. “We have, as much as possible sought out energy efficient equipment,” it stated.

Another major objective for the business has been to reduce plastic waste. In 2018 it removed more than 21 tonnes of plastic from its restaurants by changing from plastic straws and cutlery to biodegradable and compostable alternatives. In 2019, it removed a further 11 tonnes of virgin plastic by changing the cups and lids of its fresh drinks to versions with a greater recycled plastic content.

Its strategy is to introduce packaging made from materials that have an available recycling stream wherever possible, thereby increasing demand for recycled packaging products.

It has also partnered with waste management firm Veolia to ensure that all separated waste is recycled and any waste that cannot be properly segregated is incinerated to generate energy.

“We are a ‘zero waste to landfill’ business except in respect of two Leon-owned restaurants where we are unable to influence the waste collection partner as it’s decided by the landlord,” the company said in the report.

Prior to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Leon had seen 18 months of consecutive like-for-like sales growth.

For 2019, sales increased 10% on a like-for-like basis and 15% overall to £115.3m. UK EBITDA rose from £3.9m to £5.2m year-on-year.

While the company has had to open and close stores during the past 12 months in response to coronavirus restrictions, the firm is hopeful of getting back onto the expansion path that led to its estate swelling to more than 50 stores.

Prior to the pandemic it raised £10m in new equity while a CVA completed in December is designed to enable it to plan for stabilisation and a return to growth, according to its directors.

Roadchef applies the accelerator on Leon restaurant partnership

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Andrew Seymour

The author Andrew Seymour

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