Celebrating the best in the business at the Publican Awards

By Rob Willock

- Last updated on GMT

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Willock: "Winning at the Publican Awards should mean something special"
Willock: "Winning at the Publican Awards should mean something special"
The Publican Awards, in association with Sky, was a night for celebrating in the company of friends, colleagues and competitors — in the way that only our industry knows how to do.

It is the premier event in the pub industry’s calendar. And some of the sector’s best assets were represented there last week — the clever and creative people behind thousands of successful British pubs.

We had many beautifully big pub companies in the room; lots of small but perfectly formed pub companies too, and everything in between. For the first time this year, we invited entries to the Publican Awards from the 300 independent managed multiple operators who represent our MA300 business club — a segment in such fast growth that we have to change its name each year to reflect the increasing size of its membership.

So for many of our 11 main awards categories there were winners among companies with up to 50 pubs and also for companies with more than 50 pubs. More winners indeed than ever before.

There are some people who would prefer to focus on the problems facing Britain’s pubs rather than their achievements. And they would begrudge us this opportunity to rejoice in the successes of the best pub companies. But they would be wrong to do so.

They would be entirely wrong to set themselves against the innovation, the enthusiasm, the energy and the passion of our awards finalists. They would be wrong to fail to recognise the entrepreneurial excellence demonstrated by the best in our business.

And they would be wrong to overlook the employment and career development opportunities these companies provide to thousands of youngsters every year. They’d be wrong on so many levels.

Pub retail standards are at an all-time high, staff training and recruitment is fast becoming a science, pub food matches the best the restaurant sector has to offer, and attention to detail on service is improving all the time.

I know some pubcos are shy about promoting their successes for fear of inviting the attention of critics. I know where they’re coming from. But they shouldn’t be cowed by those with their own agendas, be they political or personal. Now, more than ever — on the eve of another Government intervention in our sector — pub companies must talk up their accomplishments.

I hope that being shortlisted via the Publican Awards’ rigorous judging process has provided some of them with the sort of independent endorsement they can use to demonstrate their good corporate citizenship, as well as their value to the economy and their pubs’ communities.

The Publican Awards judging process is both onerous and rigorous. I’ve been involved in many awards schemes in different business sectors, and I can honestly say that in none of those did finalists have to commit so much time and resource to the process as do Publican Awards contenders.

As a result our winners can value the certainty that they are the most deserving company among their peers. Winning at the Publican Awards should mean something special — and we know from speaking to former victors that it does. Congratulations to them all!

Adapted from Rob Willock’s opening speech at the Publican Awards on 11 March

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