Friday Five: the week's top news

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Friday Five: the week's top news

Related tags: Coronavirus, Restaurant, Michelin

This week's main hospitality news stories include the launch of the Michelin Guide Great Britain & Ireland 2021; speculation on when lockdown will end; and Mercato Metropolitano's global expansion plans.

- London restaurants Core by Clare Smyth and Hélène Darroze at The Connaught have both been awarded three stars in the Michelin Guide Great Britain & Ireland 2021​. This week's virtual event to commemorate the launch of the latest edition of the red book saw a total of 22 restaurants receive new star ratings, with three new two-star restaurants announced and 17 new one-star restaurants recognised. Chef Andrew Wong's flagship restaurant A Wong in Victoria became the first Chinese restaurant in the UK to achieve a two-star rating; while Tom Brown's Hackney hotspot Cornerstone was among the list of restaurants receiving their first star. A further 16 restaurants were awarded a Bib Gourmand​; while 23 restaurants received a new Michelin green star for sustainability​. A total of 20 restaurants, meanwhile, were demoted or deleted from this year's Guide​, many as a result of having closed due to the Coronavirus pandemic. 

- A 'three-stage' plan to gradually ease lockdown restrictions in England will see pubs and restaurants remaining closed until May​. According to reports, officials are working on proposals, which could see most shops closed until April. Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that schools will not open until March at the earliest, and has promised he will publish a 'roadmap' for reopening on February 22. Johnson told the Commons a roadmap would set out stages to 'gradually to reopen our economy and our society'. The Prime Minister said the Government would take a decision in the middle of next month, when there is a clearer idea of the impact of the vaccine on the pandemic. He said: “By then we will know much more about the effect of vaccines in preventing hospitalisations and deaths, using data from the UK but also other nations such as Israel. We will know how successful the current restrictions have been in driving down infections. It comes amid reports that the Government is considering the introduction of 'halfway house' restrictions​ after Easter.

- Food market Mercato Metropolitano is to open three new sites across the capital this year as part of a global £35m expansion plan​. The group, which currently operates two London markets in Elephant & Castle and Mayfair, is aiming to open a total of 10 new sites around the world by 2025, with US locations in Atlanta, Boston, Miami and New York planned alongside Berlin, Lisbon and Milan in Europe. Longer-term, further markets are planned for secondary cities in the UK and globally. Mercato Metropolitano expects the expansion drive to create around 2,000 new jobs. A previously unannounced new location in Canary Wharf is set to launch in the summer alongside a site at London’s Elephant Park development that was first confirmed back in 2019. This will be followed in the autumn with the opening of Mercato Metropolitano Ilford, which has been billed as a rooftop urban farm and market designed to produce 60-80 tonnes of mixed vegetables a year.

- The hospitality sector has been hardest hit by the pandemic in terms of employment​, new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have revealed. The UK’s unemployment rate rose to 5% in the three months to November 2020, according to ONS figures, with more than 200,000 people having lost their jobs in the three-month period. The hospitality sector has been the worst hit, with the number of unemployed up by more than 50,000 year-onyear. There are now 1.72 million people out of work, and 828,000 fewer people on company payrolls through December compared to February 2020, marking the highest level of unemployment in the UK since 2016. Parts of London have seen the highest percentage falls, followed by north-eastern Scotland. The report also shows the effectiveness of the Government’s furlough scheme, which was shielding 2.4 million workers from unemployment at the end of October 2020, down from a peak of 8.9 million in May.

Hospitality 'certainly isn’t a huge risk' when it comes to the transmission of Coronavirus infection​, public health officials have told Parliament. Despite hospitality having consistently faced the toughest operating restrictions, Greg Fell, director of Public Health in Sheffield, and Dr Richard Harling, his counterpart in Staffordshire, said the bulk of transmission has always been in people’s homes. Giving evidence before the Science and Technology Committee to discuss the NHS Test and Trace system, Harling said: “Back in the summer and autumn, once you put transmission between household members aside, the next most important one was transmission between different households. Hospitality did feature but much lower down the list. At the moment, with hospitality closed, our main one now is other businesses, other workplaces.” Asked about the risk of transmission in hospitality venues, Fell told MPs: “Most of the transmission events are households, within households, or household to household transmission. Hospitality doesn’t crop up as a terribly big risk on our risk radar. Certainly when we look at the common exposure dataset, hospitality certainly isn’t a huge risk. There will have been transmission in hospitality, but it’s certainly nowhere near the top of my risk radar.”

Check below for more of this week's headlines, or click here​.

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