Under new ownership, The Lancrigg Hotel in the Lake District has seen its F&B offering given a complete upheaval in a bid to secure its long-term sustainability as a profitable hospitality business. We spoke to owner Simon Wright on why he decided to go from vegetarian venture to meat-inclusive manor and the impact it’s had on guests.
The Lancrigg Hotel and Kitchen is a Lake District restaurant with rooms set in 30 acres of gardens and woodlands. Home to 10 bedrooms, each named to reflect the history of the house, and two restaurants, the property underwent a major overhaul at the start of 2018, with its design, service and style undergoing a revamp.
New proprietor of The Lancrigg Simon Wright, who oversaw most of the refurbishment himself, spearheaded the change of a hotel’s restaurant menu, a fairly standard procedure for any new incoming owner. The difference however, was that the changes were to have a huge impact on how the hotel operates.
Prior to its renovation, The Lancrigg and Kitchen was a full vegetarian establishment, specialising solely in vegetarian and vegan cuisine.
However, after running The Lancrigg for over a year like this, it was clear that in the current climate, the concept would not be economically viable for long and so set about transforming the menu and incorporating meat back into the menu.
We spoke with owner Wright to find out how the change has impacted the hotel’s core customer base and how he now intends to build on business.
- What was the aim for the restaurant when you took over the business?
The aim for the restaurant has always been to produce local, sustainable, and excellent food with a twist for our guests as well as the locals who come to join us.
- Why did you decide to start offering meat dishes again, rather than keeping it strictly vegetarian?
We realised after running the Lancrigg for over a year as solely vegan and vegetarian that the current climate would not keep us afloat for long. It was a hard decision to make due to the history of the hotel being based in vegetarianism, but in order to survive we needed to have a fully inclusive menu. At The Lancrigg, we love to celebrate its history; from the décor right down to the names of the rooms. So we have however kept a strong vegan and veggie menu in honour of the history of the restaurant.
- What impact has this transition had on the business?
At first there was understandable disappointment from some dedicated customers of ours, but many customers have been very positive, especially returning guests who might have family who eat fish and meat. We have also had many more guests join us who feel they are able to eat here now due to having more variety. What has been very positive is how many meat eating customers who have wanted to try the vegetarian dishes on the menu.
- Has it turned away any customers?
Understandably, we have seen some customers not return to The Lancrigg since we added meat to the menu. This has only been a small number of customers though, and we do appreciate and respect their principles. However, with the addition of our meat-inclusive menu, we have seen more new customers joining us at The Lancrigg Hotel and Kitchen, which has been a fantastic boost to our business.
- Has it impacted the chefs? How so?
The chefs were impacted, but only in the beginning. We were lucky to have a fantastic chef, Rob Stacey, who saw it as a challenge and created some superb dishes. Most of our chefs have been more than happy to work on vegan and veggie dishes as we have so much great local produce to work with. Our current Chef, Mark Batty, is passionate about local food and using the woodlands and orchard for produce. As owners, we decided to reduce our own meat consumption hugely in order to understand the product even more, and this has stuck with us to this day.
- How has business been since the takeover?
Things have been on the up and up. There have been many changes such as refurbishment and adding our new Poet’s Bar and café, but we are seeing an incline in visitors who are getting to know about Lancrigg through word of mouth. We are happy to be known as a family destination now, where as previously we were not really on the radar for the start of many family walks.
- How many covers are you doing?
On a busy evening during summer we can cover 20 – 30 people.
- What are the future plans?
The future includes continuing to restore the building and gardens to their former glory. The gardens and woodland take a lot of maintenance, so we will be focusing on projects to allow this essential work to take place. Our play area will also have some developments, including new natural areas for exploring and discovering nature for families.