The group’s decision comes as the majority of the large restaurant chains have decided to halt their delivery function despite still being allowed to operate under the Government’s lockdown rules, because they don’t want to put staff at unnecessary risk.
Leon says that it has explained to its staff members that none of them should work if they don’t wish to do so.
“Whatever each team member decides, we support them in their choice of whether to work or not. If they choose to remain at home, we are assisting them in accessing the Government furlough scheme,” it said in a statement.
CEO and founder John Vincent says the decision is not financially driven, but that the company has been inundated with requests from NHS hospitals and other people to continue serving food. It says that meals for the NHS and the homeless will likely be the ‘vast majority’ of its work.
He adds that if the company does make a profit, 100% of it will go to serving the NHS.
In an interview with BBC Radio 4, Vincent said that 50 million meals were eaten out of the home and that at the moment supermarkets were struggling to pick up on the surge in demand with everyone switching from foodservice supply chain to supermarkets at the same time.
He said that Leon would be turning some of its restaurants into shops for the delivery companies such as Uber Eats and Deliveroo “for the last mile of logistics” so that they could send food that was meant to go into the foodservice supply chain to people’s homes.
The company is also setting up an E-commerce site to help give customers and NHS staff access to food.
Vincent also called on businesses to box up food that would otherwise be wasted so that the company could help ship it to people’s houses, citing the 10-12 day wait for grocery deliveries from supermarkets that people are now facing.
“Between all of us we need to decide are there any shop at all that need to stay open,” he said. “The right thing to do, purely from a selfish view, is to shut Leon because all of our teams will be paid off by the Government. We have customers saying we cannot get food, and hospitals, we want to continue to serve them.
“Everyone has to put the country alongside their own self interests, but at the end of it I have to know - have I done the right thing?”