UK ‘Healthy’ Fast-Food Chain LEON Launches in U.S.

The popular UK fast-food restaurant chain LEON, which boasts an emphasis on “healthy” fast-food, is set to open its first U.S. location in the nation’s capital, Washington, DC.

The chain, which opened in London in 2004 by a former Procter & Gamble executive, bills itself as the pioneer of “naturally fast food” with a Mediterranean Diet style menu loaded with healthy salads, burgers, and falafel.

The menu on the LEON website also caters to specific diet goals and lets customers sort by dietary preferences such as “I don’t eat gluten,” “I’m vegan,” “I’m pregnant,” “I’d like a meal under 500 calories,” and “good for your gut.”

The 50-plus location chain represents a growing trend in fast-food, with chains such as Chipotle and Panera Bread emphasizing healthier options as consumer tastes shift toward cleaner ingredients and more plant-based options. Even greasy fast-food joints like White Castle are now offering consumers vegan options such as the popular plant-based Impossible Burger. In select European locations, McDonald’s is now offering a vegan burger option.

But while strides are being made, much of the U.S. fast food options are still loaded with excess sodium and fat and high caloric loads. LEON says it hopes to offer American diners something new and exciting.

“D.C. feels like the most special of starts to our U.S. adventure,” co-founder John Vincent said in a statement. “We have found the people, community and culture of D.C. very inspiring.”

A recent survey found that Mediterranean-style hummus and falafel sandwiches are now the most popular sandwiches in the UK, displacing meat-and-dairy-heavy sandwiches like BLTs and cream cheese and salmon sandwiches.

LEON also sets itself apart from other fast-food chains by its use of sustainable energy sources. All of the chain’s cutlery and packaging is compostable and plastic-free.

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