Shaper: John Vincent encore

Show aired on 2nd July 2016


John Vincent is CEO of Leon, the naturally fast food chain, which he co-founded with Henry Dimbleby in 2004 to make it easier for everyone to eat well. He previously worked as a strategy consultant for Bain & Company, where his business travels made him realise that the only available food on the go was making everyone fall asleep and wake up fat. With the declared aim to create “a McDonalds in heaven”, and working with chef Allegra McEvedy, John and Henry opened the first LEON on Carnaby Street in 2004. Shortly after it was awarded ‘Best Newcomer’ at the Observer Food Monthly Awards. John took over the day to day running of Leon in 2014, leads the menu innovations and has co-authored three of the Leon cook books. LEON now has 36 restaurants in London, Birmingham and UK transport hubs. The first LEON in Glasgow will open this summer, shortly after the first European store in Schiphol airport, Amsterdam.

John co-authored the School Food Plan for the UK Government in 2013, which persuaded the Government to put cooking back on the curriculum and provide free school meals for all infants. He was awarded an MBE in 2015 for his services to school food.

John is married to TV newscaster and presenter Katie Derham, with whom he has two daughters.

Listen live at 9am Saturday.

Follow John on Twitter @JohnV_LEON.

“We’ve always had the idea of ‘if God did fast food’… we have definitely stuck to that.”

“We had to prove that we can create something where we can get from one restaurant to two restaurants, to three restaurants to what we’ve now got: thirty six.”

“How we can make sure that the manager – or the mum and dad as we call them – in every single restaurant can be as strong as they were in the first restaurant. That’s the key for us.”

“A lot of people say innovation is great. I think innovation is the death of many businesses at a strategic level.”

“It is very easy to make a smiley person not smile through a bad culture, but I don’t think it’s possible to take a non-smiley person and make them smiley through a good culture.”

“We are comfortable making sure people understand that love does not equal acceptance – you can still fire people, but making sure we genuinely care for people is very important.”

“We want to be the fourth emergency service.”

“I do feel extremely pleased to have taken some of the principals that I’ve learnt in business and life more broadly and put them into practice in the public sector.”

“We got free school meals for the first three years of school, we got practical cooking of savoury dishes on the curriculum for the first time, we got hundreds of thousands of children in under privileged areas having breakfasts for the first time.”

“If kids grow a strawberry or grow a cucumber or grow a cabbage, they eat it. It stops being alien food.”

“That’s the key thing, give up the fruits of money, give up the fruits of fame and recognise that happiness comes from mastering something.”