There are industry awards schemes, and then there is the Publican Awards.
During my career, I have been involved in many awards across different sectors, doing my fair share of paper judging as well as site visits, interviews and on-the-night reporting, writes Mike Berry.
I’ve been fortunate to be involved in the Publican Awards for the past five years, mostly during my time on the Morning Advertiser magazine (which runs the scheme), and this year as an invited judge.
At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, in my view the Publican Awards blow all other industry schemes out the water. In fact, it was recently recognised by the PPA as awards show of the year.
I’ve seen first-hand the effort and commitment it takes to become a finalist, the rigour woven into the judging process and the focus needed to compile a credible entry that has a realistic chance of making you a finalist.
For this year’s awards, myself and FSC managing director Mark Stretton were invited to be part of the judging day which takes place in London every year. It’s a full-on experience, with panel sessions getting underway at 8.30am and running through to evening.
The day is the culmination of a judging process that begins four months earlier with pub companies invited to submit their entries across 15 categories. Those entries are not just a quick one-page summary of their performance over the year, they are significant bodies of work in themselves, submitted with supporting information, testimonials, marketing collateral, policies and pictures.
These entries are then judged against strict criteria and whittled down to finalist companies. What follows are in-depth judging visits and head office interviews across the country, supplemented by mystery dining scores and, in the case of the tenanted and leased pub companies – a survey of their tenants.
Reports are then compiled and shared with invited industry judges in preparation for the Dragons Den-style panel day. That day requires concentration, patience and persistence – and copious amounts of caffeine to get you through – and that’s just the judges!
For the finalists, it can be an incredibly daunting experience, walking in to a room knowing you are going to get grilled on specific aspects of your operation and why you deserve recognition ahead of the other finalists. The vast majority perform admirably under pressure and when judges and finalists mix at the end of the day for a well-deserved beer, you can sense the relief all round.
The awards culminate in a fantastic celebration at Battersea Evolution in London, playing host to c1,300 guests, which sees the winners crowned. It has become the must-attend event in the pub trade calendar and again this year did not disappoint. If you’re called on stage to pick up an award, you truly deserve it.
What the awards also reinforce is the diverse and exciting nature of the UK pub sector. Best-in-class companies running different styles of operation but ultimately all focused on one thing – providing a truly memorable guest experience.
You can see the full list of this year’s winners here.
Follow me on Twitter @mrmikeberry