Leon to launch in Italy

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Leon to launch in Italy

Related tags Leon Multi-site R200 QSR Fast food International expansion Italy Pret a manger

Leon will open its first outpost in Italy later this year in Rome as part of a partnership between SSP Group and Italian rail station operator Grandi Stationi.

The UK-based healthy fast food chain will open an outlet in Rome’s Termini Station in October, which will be operated by SSP.

Leon has previously struggled to retain a foothold in international markets.

Last year the group withdrew from the Irish market, closing its three Dublin stores, following sustained pandemic trading pressures.

The year before it also permanently exited the US​ and Scandinavia, again as a result of the pandemic.

At present Leon’s only overseas locations are in the Netherlands, where it operates four sites: two in Amsterdam, one in Rotterdam, and one in Utrecht.

It also has more than 80 stores across the UK.

For SSP, opening in Italy will mark entry into its 37th market.

Its partnership with Grandi Stationi will further see it open YO!; Italian casual dining concept Granaio; and sustainable gourmet concept EXKi at Rome Termini Station.

Jeremy Fennell, CEO of Continental Europe & Nordics at SSP, said: “We’re delighted to announce our entry into the Italian market and are certain that LEON, Yo!, Granaio and EXKi will prove highly popular with travellers at Rome Termini Station.

“At SSP, we have a strong track record in bringing great brands to travel locations and making them relevant to the local market. We’re certain this is the start of a very fruitful business venture as we take our first steps in this important European market.”

Leon's announcement comes after Pret A Manger launched its first shop in Italy in Milan’s Malpensa Airport earlier this week; the first of 40 openings planned across the country.

The grab-and-go sandwich chain has made an exclusive agreement with Italian catering business Chef Express, marking another step in its plan to double the size of its business​.

A further three openings are planned by the end of the year, including a second in Malpensa Airport’s Terminal 1 and two in the Grandi Stazioni retail circuit.

Leon is currently owned and operated by the Issa brother's EG Group. However, earlier this week it was announced that Asda, which is also owned by the Issas, had agreed to buy EG's UK and Ireland operations for an enterprise value of £2.27bn​; a deal that will see it take ownership of the Leon brand.

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