The BBC’s weekly In charge series profiles various business leaders from around the globe. This week we speak with John Vincent, president and co-founder of fast food chain Leon.
John Vincent confesses he was “simply mad” for fast food in his youth.
” I remember, vividly, resting on my back when I was eight, waving my hands and feet in the air with pleasure, when my moms and dads informed me that for my birthday we were going to McDonald’s,” states the 48- years of age.
That was the start of a long love affair with junk food that ultimately triggered the creation of Leon in 2004 when he was 33.
He remembers that by his early 30 s he was still “consuming a heck a great deal of quick food … sometimes two or 3 meals every day”, when he had the concept that fast service meals did not have to be unhealthy.
The result was Leon – called after his dad – and introduced with friends Henry Dimbleby and Allegra McEvedy.
” If we might make excellent food as mentally addictive as traditional fast food, which benefited you and kind to the planet, I thought it might be a fun company to run,” says John.
From its first shop in main London’s Carnaby Street, Leon now has more than 70 dining establishments across the UK and Europe, three up until now in the US, and a workforce of more than 2,000
Maturing in North London, the values of effort was instilled in John early. His daddy’s household were Italian immigrants, and his grandpa (who had actually changed the household name from Febraro to Vincent during World War Two) was a serial entrepreneur with numerous start-up concepts that typically came to nothing.
” I had a desire in me to say, ‘do not fret granddad, I can do those things that you tried to do’,” states John. “[And] I was definitely programmed with the stories of how my grandma had to leave school at 15.
” I was informed every day not to let that take place to me … and that nobody’s going to help you out if you do not strive.”
That hard work settled. After going to school, John checked out history at Cambridge University – where he embarked on his very first organisation venture, a production company doing music events.
” We ‘d be on the roadway a lot, and I just could not pass a McDonalds,” he states. “Every time I ‘d attempt to drive previous, I ‘d end up stopping and going in to get loads of quick food for the crew in the van.”
After university, John invested four years working in sales and marketing at durable goods huge Proctor & Gamble, prior to 7 years at management consultancy company Bain. It was while working there that he created the concept for Leon with his colleague Henry, son of veteran broadcaster David Dimbleby.
Henry generated Allegra, an expert chef and school pal of his sibling’s, and the 3 of them approach launching the organisation. John says their pitch for Leon was “what if God did fast food?”, or “what if quick food was in heaven?”.
Looking back, John – who is wed to the TELEVISION speaker Katie Derham – confesses that in many methods they had it easy when looking for monetary backers, because of the connections he and Henry made throughout their time at Bain.
Among his clients while at the consultancy was the multi-millionaire South African entrepreneur Vivian Imerman, then the boss of whisky business Whyte & Mackay. It was Mr Imerman who set up ₤500,000 to help release Leon.
” I had actually done a job for them, and they liked what I ‘d done,” says John. “And although they didn’t actually get the concept of healthy quick food, they decided to provide us the cash.”
For the very first couple of years of Leon, John integrated assisting to run the business with taking up the director of marketing function at Whyte and Mackay. He ultimately ended up being president of Leon in2014 Today Henry remains on the board, while Allegra is still a shareholder.
John says that for many years his leadership design has mellowed. Out has actually gone his military, command-and-control method, and in has actually come a more nurturing mindset.
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He credits using up the Chinese martial art of Wing Tsun, which literally equates as “beautiful springtime”, for the overhaul. “I thought I was a good leader, however I was informed I was leading like a basic,” he says.
The directing concept of Wing Tsun, he says, is built on “winning not battling”, or winning by staying relaxed and versatile. When applied to the world of service, John states that it means leadership should not be “about confrontation”. Instead he says it is about ensuring “everybody is moving in the exact same direction for the right factor”. Staff at Leon are encouraged to give Wing Tsun a shot.
Leon’s sales are definitely moving in the ideal instructions. At a time when dining establishment chains are closing down, its revenues for the 2018 monetary year were up 25%. The business did not, nevertheless, earn a profit, as it rather put funds into its continuing growth. It is particularly targeting the United States, where it has hired a former Hamburger King president to lead that drive.
While McDonald’s may have been John’s inspiration, Leon is not a traditional junk food joint, according to Trish Caddy, senior food service analyst at market research study business Mintel. She states it instead occupies a “blurred middle ground in between traditional junk food in the UK, and what we think about casual dining”.
In the United States it would be called “casual fast dining” – greater quality food, without table service.
Ms Caddy adds that Leon’s “uniqueness is being at the cutting-edge of menu development that is geared towards business crowd”.
” Leon stands apart by concentrating on making healthy food and drink more accessible to city-dwellers and commuters throughout the day,” she states.
That accepts John’s vision for Leon in the very first location. “It’s got to be with fresh components, with good gut health, with Mediterranean food principles,” he states. “And in a location where people smile due to the fact that they want to smile.”