I canvassed the experiences of my followers on Instagram and Oh Crumbs podcast listeners recently, asking what everyone’s best and worst gluten free restaurant experiences had been. Unfortunately, Leon’s name kept popping up as many people relayed their negative stories about trying to get a safe gluten free meal at their restaurants. This is such a shame as I had always found Leon’s gluten free menu to be a reliable option on the high street.
For any readers not familiar with Leon, it’s a chain of healthy(-ish) fast food restaurants with 64 branches nationwide. They have extensive gluten free options, all marked clearly on the menu, and actively promote their gluten free offering. Their gluten free options include salad boxes, burgers, chicken nuggets, baked waffle fries and cakes.
So What Experiences Have Some Coeliacs Had at Leon?
Lots of people (myself included) have had good experiences at Leon. Being served safe gluten free food and with staff taking extra care when informed that you are coeliac or gluten sensitive. I always let staff know that I am coeliac when I order.
However, lots of others told me they they were entirely refused service by staff /managers: “[they] wouldn’t serve me…I said I was coeliac and they said we can’t serve you“; “they told me they couldn’t facilitate [coeliacs] as they are a very busy location“. Customers were told that certain gluten free dishes (specifically the nuggets) were not coeliac safe. One branch even told a coeliac customers that they did not offer any gluten free options at all, even when she had a long conversation with the manager.
It seems like practises vary so wildly due to the different approaches taken by front of house staff, as some people were refused services at particular branches that others were served well from. One thing that was consistent though was praise for staff always asking about allergies, allowing them to take necessary precautions (/not serve customers).
As I personally have always had a good experience at Leon, I decided to look into this a bit further and tagged Leon in my stories to see if they could answer some of the claims laid against them.
What Leon Said
I gathered together all the comments I had been sent and forwarded the complaints on to Leon HQ for them to action. I also asked them a few questions about whether they welcome coeliac and gluten sensitive customers.
Is it Leon’s Policy to Refuse to Serve Coeliac Customers?
No. Leon told me: “we should never refuse service – this is not part of our allergen policy”. They added: “We ask every guest when they order with us if they have any allergies we should be aware of…We ask every time because we sometimes change or adapt our recipes and it’s the only we can we alert our guests and keep them updated with our menu. All of our teams are trained that in the event of a guest mentioning they have an allergy; the guest should be directed to a document called the Foodie Fact Sheet by the manager. This will show full nutritional and ingredient details, as well as the allergens present and any allergens that may be present… Once our guests have read this, if they decide to dine with us the manager will supervise as their order is prepared.”
Well, that all sounds ideal in theory, but obviously hasn’t always happened in practice based on the feedback I have heard from some gluten free Leon customers. Leon confirmed to me that they take any feedback and customer complaint on board to try to improve any glitches in front of house processes.
So How are Guest Complains Actioned?
Leon assured me that their teams are trained regularly about allergen management and that in the event of complaints: “we contact the restaurant and their Operations Manager to ensure the entire restaurant team is retrained during their daily briefings.”
I haven’t heard of anyone being glutened at Leon, but were this to happen Leon take this very seriously. “If a guest ever gets in touch with us to let us know they’ve been unwell and think LEON is the cause; we immediately open an investigation to look into the matter further. We ask the guest questions about their meal and their symptoms, we check with restaurant safety logs and ingredients, suppliers, etc.“
The long and the short of it: if you have a bad experience at a Leon please send them your complaint asap so they can fix the issue.
What are Leon’s Gluten Free Processes?
I felt much more reassured knowing that they were taking the complaints seriously and I learnt more about their gluten free kitchen processes, which sound great to me.
- Leon kitchens have designated gluten and gluten free zones, with separate freezers, fridges and equipment.
- Gluten free orders are passed from kitchen to counter on a separate shelf of their hot pass.
- External Leon suppliers produce their products either in fully gluten free kitchens or designated gluten free areas, with testing carried out before items enter the Leon supply chain.
- Leon also have samples of their finished dishes sent off for gluten testing.
Leon do issues a general disclaimer (as found in every restaurant these days, but equally state that they feel confident in declaring their products to be gluten free: “We do always have to make the caveat that we work in a fresh kitchen and can never 100% guarantee dishes will be allergen-free but we do all we can to minimise the risk of cross-contact“…”Whilst there will always be a very small chance of cross-contamination, we feel confident calling our dishes ‘gluten free’. This is a claim that can be made for any dish where gluten is present at <20ppm, and our test results have verified this to be true for the dishes sampled.“
Okay, but Should I Eat at Leon if I am Coeliac?
Totally up to you. Based on the information above I will continue to eat at Leon, unless the facts change. At the end of the day though it is each coeliac or gluten sensitive person’s personal choice as to whether they eat in mixed facility restaurants. I was impressed with Leon’s processes and their commitment to keeping things safely gluten free.
What do you guys think? I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to email me or direct message me on my social media accounts if you want to share your thoughts.
Looking for more gluten free news and tips? Why not have a read of one of these articles while you are here: