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British Chain Leon Will Start Blanketing D.C. in ‘Healthy’ Fast Food This August

The ambitious brand hopes to have 20 area restaurants by 2021

Leon CEO John Vincent in front of the British chain’s first D.C. restaurant, projected to open in late summer.
Frank Garcia/Leon
Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

Leon, a British fast-food chain that counts Prince Charles and Pippa Middleton as customers, plans to open the first of many speedy all-day eateries in D.C. in just a few weeks.

The first, scheduled to debut Monday, August 20, inside a former Au Bon Pain spot (1801 L Street NW), will be followed by up to 20 more within the next three years. After downtown’s debut, Leon’s management team says the second location is headed to Seventh Street NW near the new Apple store that’s taking over the Carnegie Library.

“We are definitely not fast-casual. It’s a fast food model,” CEO John Vincent tells Eater, noting that most customers get in and out in under three minutes.

His 14-year-old company, which currently has nearly 50 locations in London, is keen on including lots of natural light at the new 2,000-square-foot store. Incorporating sustainable energy is another key ingredient. Each location sports its own look, with over 50 logos — like painted images of oranges and female figures — sprinkled throughout.

“It’s a natural thing for us to go global,” says Leon managing director Glenn Edwards (left), show here with CEO John Vincent. “We are helping people fall back in love with fast food.”
Frank Garcia/Leon

During each seasonal menu shift, Leon’s management works with nutritionists to create what it calls “gut friendly” foods. The existing all-day lineup includes: egg dishes; fancy yogurt; gourmet toasts; vegan meatballs; mezze salads; chicken burgers and more. Instead of providing traditional condiments, Leon serves tarragon-olive oil mayonnaise. And the packaging — think compact vegan falafel wraps — encourages on-the-go eating.

One thing the debut D.C. shop wont have that others do: booze. Though management says future outposts will carry alcoholic drinks.

Edwards says D.C. will act as a “good gateway” to expand to other cities like Chicago and New York City down the road. The team is working with a real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle to find more locations in high-density neighborhoods.

A first look inside Leon, arriving at 1801 L Street NW in August.
Frank Garcia/Leon