Friday Five: the week's top news

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Friday Five: the week's top news

Related tags: Hospitality

This week's main hospitality news stories include Brett Graham breaking his silence on plans to relaunch The Ledbury, the lifting of Plan B measures, and Nathan Outlaw growing his estate.

- Brett Graham’s The Ledbury is to reopen late this month with a new look and feel​ following a hiatus of nearly two years. The high-reaching Notting Hill venue – which is owned by Graham, Phil Howard and Nigel PlattsMartin - has been closed since the first lockdown due to concerns over social distancing. It will initially launch offering a tasting menu only. The restaurant will initially be open Tuesday to Saturday evenings only but will offer lunch on Fridays and Saturdays from March. The menu will still comprise around eight courses but will increase from £165 to around £185 to reflect the fact that costs have increased dramatically for restaurants over the last two years. The prominent corner restaurant is in the process of being given a major makeover by Rose Murray from These White Walls and will relaunch with a more contemporary, naturalistic look and feel. Graham says that temporarily removing a la carte and significantly reducing the number of services a week will allow the team to better look after its guests but that the experience will be pitched at roughly the same level as the first iteration of The Ledbury. “Though in many ways this is a continuation of what has come before I see this is the start of a new journey for us. The old The Ledbury is no more, and we have a new sense of direction and purpose,” Graham told BigHospitality​.

- The Prime Minister has confirmed that Plan B measures including the use of so-called 'vaccine passports' will be scrapped in England next week​. Boris Johnson said in a statement to the House of Commons this week that work from home guidance and the mandatory wearing of face-masks would also go when the restrictions are lifted and the country reverts to Plan A next Thursday (27 January). Hospitality trade bodies have welcomed the announcement, but also warned the Government not to underestimate the severity these measures have had on trade during the festive period and into the new year, amid a renewed call for current lower 12.5% rate of VAT for the industry to be extended beyond the end of the financial year.

Nathan Outlaw is to expand his empire in Port Isaac, Cornwall, having acquired the Stargazy Inn restaurant with rooms​, with plans to relaunch it as Outlaw's Guesthouse. Outlaw and his wife Rachel have bought the property from owners David and Jackie Barnard off a guide price of £1.85m. The Stargazy Inn holds nine luxury bedrooms alongside its restaurant space, which the Outlaws plan to refurbish before relaunching the venue.

- Roux Scholar Oli Williamson has been promoted to the role of head chef at Heston Blumenthal’s three-Michelin starred restaurant The Fat Duck​. Williamson is now heading up the kitchen at Blumenthal’s Bray flagship having been promoted from the role of sous chef. The 31 year-old chef has been at the restaurant for just over a year, having joined at the tail-end of 2020. He will work alongside Edward Cooke, who took over as head chef at the restaurant following the departure of Jonny Lake in 2018 and was later promoted to executive chef.

Consumer confidence in eating and drinking out remains high despite the rapid spread of the Omicron variant​, according to new research from CGA. More than two thirds (70%) of people now feel confident about visiting pubs, bars and restaurants – more than double the number at the start of 2021 (34%) and a sharp increase on the total of 52% from CGA’s research in July – its Consumer Pulse survey has found. The research of 2,000 nationally representative consumers does, however, reveal that anxiety about Covid-19 remains, with more than half (55%) of consumers worried about Omicron and two thirds (67%) concerned about a further peak in infections. The hospitality sector’s efforts to reassure guests have proven to be effective, according to CGA, with nearly three quarters (71%) of people saying that they feel ‘very’ or ‘quite’ safe on their last visits — a slight increase from July’s total of 69%. Consumers are also keen to support a sector that has been heavily impacted by Covid-19. Seventy per cent say they are worried that venues may not survive the pandemic, while 62% say they are actively supporting local hospitality businesses.

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

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