Leon's campaign to raise £1m to fund thousands of hot meals a day for NHS staff is nearing its target.
The healthy fast food chain, which has always offered discounts to NHS workers, set the ambitious challenge after realising key hospital employees needed support to "find food confidently".
"So we started looking at that," Leon's values and sustainability director Kirsty Sadler told The Caterer. "A lot of our sites are within proximity to major London hospitals and lots of businesses across the country that they'd relied on for food were shutting. Those [staff] in critical care can't leave the hospital and some hospitals don't have a staff canteen at all.
"We had a brilliant introduction through actors Damian [Lewis], Helen [McCrory] and Matt [Lucas] to Imperial College and a call with the people who lead on the trust's charity side. They worked out they would be benefit from 6,000 meals a day across five of their hospitals".
Lewis, McCrory and Lucas, who had already put in a "tremendous amount" of personal research into understanding what NHS staff needed most in terms of meals, were excited to work with Leon because of the brand's "naturally fast aspect and the nutritional values". Another group of restaurant operators, including Wasabi, Dishoom, Tossed and Tortilla also came forward to support the scheme.
Sadler says each NHS trust and hospital is "quite unique" in terms of how they operate and are managed: "We had discussions about how this would work best. 200 meals an hour is our best capacity which we are delivering across three-to-four slots per day."
Meals from a pared-down menu of chicken burgers, lentil masala, Brazilian black-bean and chilli con carne are prepared in four dedicated Leon kitchens. Those within a one-mile radius of the hospitals are delivered by foot, the rest goes by delivery partner Deliveroo.
Sadler said she was looking forward to surpassing the campaign's target, having more conversations about the replication of the model to reach people outside London and to integrate more operators: "It really is a community with other businesses and we are trying to match the demand." And next week Leon launches its Feed Britain platform, a business model that aims to redirect restaurant quality produce to people's homes.
Sadler credits Just Giving as "extremely flexible and supportive" having launched the campaign originally as a crowdfunding appeal before transitioning into a unique fundraising appeal: "Your skill set is merely a support to your attitude, your motivation to do what needs doing and the realisation that it is absolutely crucial to lead with doing the right thing. We went very hard with doing the right thing and that's what motivates me every day."
If you're a food operator looking to get involved visit https://www.feednhs.com/