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Live well, win well

LEON Restaurants Ltd. were double awards winners at the 2017 People Awards.

Recognising the bravest and the best in hospitality recruitment, retention and development, the 2018 People Awards are now open for entries and the deadline is 25th June.

There are 13 categories in which to enter, including On-Boarding and Employee Engagement. If you have an initiative or programme you think should be noticed, now’s the time to get the recognition you deserve! Enter here.

Providing insight, knowledge and skills

“We, like many others in our sector, are obsessed with providing a great customer experience and I think that all team members should have an equally great experience when they start working for us,” said Marco Galer-Reick, People Director of LEON Restaurants Ltd, well-deserved winners of the On-Boarding award at the 2017 People Awards. “The first few days and weeks in a new job are critical, that’s where people decide whether or not the job matches their expectations and whether they should stay or leave. At the same time, we need to create good habits in the early days so the initial training is super important.”

A great On-Boarding Programme supports productivity and retention. For this category, the judges were looking for entries that demonstrated a well thought out programme that enabled new recruits to gain the insight, knowledge, skills and behaviours they needed to thrive within each respective business.

The LEON School of Magic

LEON had grown rapidly in recent years and that, according to Marco, always provides a challenge. “I want everyone who joins LEON to get the famous big warm welcome to the LEON family and also to provide the best possible training to every single new starter.”

To that end, the team at LEON devised and implemented The LEON School of Magic, a new kind of on-boarding programme and very much in keeping with their employer brand. “We identified our Fenchurch street restaurant as the perfect training school due to its opening hours which are Monday to Friday daytime only,” Marco explained. “We basically have a fully equipped restaurant at our disposal for training purposes every night and on weekends, that’s a luxury.”

LEON worked to upskill the team to be great trainers and also recruited a new General Manager internally. They branched out the School of Magic to their Brunswick restaurant, overseen by the same General Manager who is now known as the ‘Headmaster’. All new joiners spend their initial week in the School of Magic, training to the same standard.

“It didn’t take long to see a significant reduction in team turnover in the first three months of employment, largely due to the great experience our new starters consistently receive,” Marco said.

Employee Engagement

LEON weren’t content with just winning one award, they walked away with two. For the Employee Engagement category, the judges were looking for entries that demonstrated a clear focus on understanding and successfully improving employee engagement levels. They also sought evidence of clearly understood areas for development, well executed initiatives, and a genuinely positive impact on employee retention, customer satisfaction, productivity and costs.

“Team retention has become the holy grail of everything HR departments do, I suppose,” Marco reflected. “Great people aren’t readily available in the labour market and it takes time and costs a lot of money to train people, so it makes a lot of sense to keep investing in employee engagement to retain talent for longer.”

Live well and Eat Well

For LEON, this was simple. “Our founding mission at LEON is to make it easier for everyone live and eat well so I wanted to make sure that this mission is true for our team members as well as our customers,” Marco said. “We have always had events related to wellbeing but wanted to make wellbeing more accessible to everyone who works for LEON to help them live well. The eating part is easy, we serve great food which is good for you and our team members eat for free.”

Marco said that LEON team members have similar concerns to those working elsewhere in the industry, things they were keen to address quickly. “The hours are often long and pay is considered low and that combination can cause stress.” LEON recently changed their pay structure and is now paying well in excess of the National Living Wage, regardless of age, the basic starting wage will be at least £8.70 at entry level. “No ifs, no buts, no asterisk,” Marco said. “I believe that it is our job to make our team members’ lives as easy as possible at work so we can help them to reduce stress levels.” With that in mind, LEON has also worked really hard on simplifying their menu in order to make it easier for team members to be really good at what they do, and as Marco says, “The feedback has been super positive.”

Enter The Kwoon

Another ground breaking initiative from LEON was the introduction of The Kwoon. The term ‘Kwoon’ is Chinese for ‘Training Hall’, derived from Wing Tsun which is a martial art that has inspired the LEON team both in a physical and philosophical way. “The Kwoon is located above our Eastcastle Street restaurant,” Marco stated. “Whilst we do teach Wing Tsun here, the beauty of it is that it is a space for the LEON community to live well. See it as a free gym for our employees. Most of the classes such as yoga, fitness, massages, zumba etc are actually run by fellow team members if they are qualified to do so.”

Marco isn’t the only one who’s pleased with the results. “The uptake has been phenomenal,” he said. “We’ve now had more than 1,500 people attending the Kwoon since we opened in March 2017. It’s difficult to pinpoint team happiness results directly to our wellbeing strategy but we have seen happiness and net promoter scores improve over the past 12 months.”

Sharing ideas

Happiness can be infectious as the LEON team were thrilled with their wins, “It’s been such a buzz,” Marco beamed. “Winning one award is great but walking away with two is something we couldn’t have dreamed of. We knew that our entries may be considered a little left-field so we weren’t sure about our chances. We have since been approached by a number of companies and organisations who want to find out more about our approach to team engagement and wellbeing which is really encouraging.”

Enter now

The closing date for this year’s People Awards is June 25th.The awards dinner will take place on October 1st at the Park Plaza, Westminster Bridge, London.

To find out more and to enter visit