Food Excellence Awards

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Pub company of the year - unbrandedBrunning & Price Sites: 14 trading and one in development Innovations: Located mainly in the north-west, with...

Pub company of the year - unbranded

Brunning & Price

Sites: 14 trading and one in development

Innovations: Located mainly in the north-west, with one site in Horsham, West Sussex, and another in Tunbridge Wells, Kent. The company was bought by The Restaurant Group (TRG) in October. In 2007 the company decided to only buy free-range chicken products and made moves to source more local produce, even if producers can only deliver to one pub.

The company has inspired managers and chefs in each pub to move forward and develop their own dishes, write their own menus, chose their own suppliers, negotiate prices and decide what to charge. There is no centralised buying. The company's rule of thumb for its chefs is if you don't do it at home you shouldn't do it in a pub. No nouvelle cuisine at B&P.

The pub company was voted Pub Group of the Year 2007 in the Good Pub Guide. In the six counties where Brunning & Price currently trade, they won four County Dining Pub of the Year awards. The company has a turnover of around £17m.

Menu samples: Buttercross Farm black pudding with salad & poached egg (£5.25); shellfish & saffron risotto with fresh peas and Parmesan (£13.25); chocolate, honey & walnut cake with blackcurrant sorbet (£5.35).

Geronimo Inns

Sites: 18 trading, with four to open in March/April this year.

Innovations: Geronimo has spent 2007 developing its training kitchen, teaching chefs everything from basic knife and computer skills to roasting a whole suckling pig. Geronimo has also held a number of food-led evenings in pubs, such as cheese and wine events, suckling pig nights and British classics nights. Supplier relationships and quality raw ingredients are top priority and front-of-house staff training is also on the company's agenda.

The food business has grown throughout 2007. Geronimo says a greater understanding of seasonal and local produce has led to a better product on the plate and helped maintain consistency of the food offer. The company feels the customer has enjoyed the better product, and sees this as its single biggest achievement.

The company has just appointed Ben Maschler as its head of food and 2008 will see more supplier visits, trips to markets and site visits. Rising oil, wheat and dairy prices will mean making the best of less popular cuts of meat and fish, and being more creative in keeping the cost to the customer reasonable.

Menu samples: game terrine, fig and grape jam, rosemary and olive toast (£7.50); roasted Welsh lamb rump, creamed mash potatoes, green beans and rosemary jus (£13).

St Austell Brewery

Number of sites: 138 tenanted and 31 managed.

Innovations: Beer and food-matching events have been held throughout the year, hosted by St Austell head brewer Roger Ryman. Food sales have increased as a result of the events. Food miles are a high priority and the brewery deals with small, local producers, inspiring chefs and boosting the local economy. Tea and cake are on the list of innovations and after improving its coffee offer, the brewery is trading up the tea to high-end loose leaves in real teapots with slices of home-made cake.

The company has highlighted two businesses it believes have achieved the most, in terms of food.

The Sharksfin, in Mevagissey, opened in summer 2007, following a massive investment. The open kitchen produces dishes made from fresh, local ingredients and food miles can be counted on one hand.

The Lifeboat Inn, in St Ives, offers traditional English pub food and all menu items are home-made. Food turnover at the Lifeboat has grown by 30%.

Families, shoppers, workers and hungry surfers are on the agenda for 2008. The Great Western Hotel, in Newquay, will focus on sharing dishes and family values.

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