Publican Awards: the 2018 finalists

By MA editorial

- Last updated on GMT

Who will win? Publican Awards winners to be announced soon
Who will win? Publican Awards winners to be announced soon

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We’re heading into the finishing straight of the Publican Awards chase, and the trade will be keen to pick out their favourites from our final round-up of runners and riders.

Rounding the final corner, the Publican Awards are all set for a spectacular culmination in which the industry will be keen to see who crosses the line first.

Judging is now complete, and sealed envelopes are under lock and key until 13 March when awards host and leading comedian Rob Brydon will reveal the results.

Brydon is best known for starring roles in the hit comedy Gavin & Stacey​​, as himself in The Trip​​ with Steve Coogan, as well as the popular Marion and Geoff​​ series, which he co-wrote.

Ed Bedington, editor of The Morning Advertiser​, which organises the awards, said: “The competition has been intense this year, with companies really vying for the titles. It’s going to be great to reveal the results, but I’d like to pay tribute to everyone that’s competed for these awards – the industry really does have some outstanding operations leading the field.”

The night will begin at 6.30pm with a pre-awards reception. Headline partner Sky will be leading the entertainment with a range of sporting simulations and drinks on the mezzanine area, which will give guests the option to try their hand at a range of sports, from golf, cricket and boxing, to football, rugby and Formula 1 racing.

Molson Coors will be providing a great range of drinks throughout the awards and the rest of evening, and Coors Light will be bringing along its own Cyclone machine to add some fun.

On top of that, the brewing giant will bring its Carling bus to the event, which features a range of fun activities, including PlayStation consoles and the opportunity to step into the shoes of a sports pundit.

The presentation night takes place at Battersea Evolution, London. To book your place at this event, email fgrivr.ebovafba@jeoz.pbz​ ​or call 01293 846508​.    

Best Accommodation Operator sponsored by HGEM (back to top)

Bel & The Dragon_Web
Anglian Country Inns

This nine-strong, family run business is hoping to cement its position as a top operator in the accommodation space


With more than 20 sites to its name, accommodation is a game Cirrus is serious about, and it will be hoping to lead the field.

Fuller, Smith & Turner

The longest-established operator in this category, Fullers will be hoping recent investment and development will put it at the front of the pack.

Bel & The Dragon

Boutique styling and a strong offer are the hallmarks of this operator, which certainly make it one to watch.

Race form

A growing competitive category within the competition, as more and more operators seek to tap into the increasing opportunity for staycation and growing tourism trade. With Brexit on the horizon and the value of the pound on the floor, the opportunities for businesses to tap into the market has seen an explosion in the number of operators seeking to create and ramp up their accommodation offers.

As such, this is a category that is only likely to get more challenging as the years move on.

Previous winners have included the Coaching Inn Group and Thwaites Inns of Character, and this year’s finalists sees a range of high-end operators face off with little to chose between them.

Best Brewing Pub Company sponsored by Fentiman's (back to top)

Best brewpub

With a brewery alongside Sheffield’s mainline station, and a rapidly growing estate of superb, beer focused bars across the UK, Pivovar is hoping to prove disruptive in this race and take its first title

Lincoln Green Brewing Company

With a name steeped in the Nottinghamshire legend of Robin Hood, Lincoln Green is hoping to steal this one. Founded in 2012, this lively five-year-old business is certainly champing at the bit.

North Bar Brewing Company

Last year’s winner and hoping to remain favourite in the 2018 challenge, North Bar is a newcomer to the brewing scene having created the brewery in 2015 following two decades of successful pub operation in the Leeds area

Brewhouse & Kitchen

Definitely one to watch, Brewhouse & Kitchen has exploded out of the gates and in a short space of time is now made up of 18 brewing sites, with many more still on the cards. This is definitely a business that is keen to make a mark.

Race form

Beer is riding high in the consumer mind with the craft-beer revolution energising drinkers young and old – as such, we’re seeing a huge return to the concept of the Brewhouse with operators like our finalists blazing a trail. Whether you’re brewing on-premises in your pubs, or setting up a central operation to supply a number of sites, vertical integration is back in vogue and it’ll be a close fight to see which of our operators is going to steal the crown for 2018.

We’ve got four very strong businesses jostling for the top slot in this race and it’s certainly going to be a close call to see which one makes it over the line

Best Community Pub Operator sponsored by Britvic (back to top)

Best community pub
Craft Union

A first-timer to the competition and a relative newcomer to the industry, this wet-led concept from the EI Group is already starting to make waves and the owners have high hopes for the future.


A previous winners from 2016, Cornerstone Inns will be hoping to improve on its form from last year which saw it lose out to a rampant Oakman Inns.

Bel & The Dragon

This south of England operation pitches itself at the upper end of the market, but has strong credentials within the communities where it operates. It’ll be hoping to cause an upset and win by a nose.

Race form

Community is key when it comes to pub operations of all kinds, and all areas of life.

Pubs act as the base for the community they are in and the pub companies that focus on that are the ones that are destined to do well. No matter the community in which you are situated, pubs should form the hub within that, and our contenders for this race will be certainly be put through their paces.

This is certainly a three-horse race with a wide variety of operators, all of whom have put community at the very heart of their operations.

From previous winners to brand new concepts, this is one race that the bookies will be sure to keep a close eye on, to see whether we’re likely to witness a late upset in the final few furlongs.

Best Late Night Operator sponsored by Jägermeister(back to top)


As profits and acquisitions continue to rise, last year’s winner Stonegate will be looking to hold on to its crown.


A company that specialises in late-night bars and clubs, Deltic sees itself as the “fierce defenders” of night-time and wet-led businesses and will be wanting to take the title from Stonegate.

Tokyo Industries

With some of the best nightclubs in the world, first-time entrant Tokyo Industries will be looking to make its mark at this year’s awards.

Race form

Late-night operations have undergone something of a revolution in recent years and they are part of a category that is always hotly contested by rival businesses.

The pub groups vying for the win in this race represent a broad range of operations, and avid Publican Award watchers will be keen to see whether previous winner Deltic has what it takes to see off some strong competition from an expanding Stonegate outfit and the bespoke innovation of international operators Tokyo Industries.

With consumer tastes changing rapidly, innovation is key in this category, and all three of our runners are great examples of businesses that are leading the field when it comes to pushing the late-night sector forward.

Best Tenanted/Leased Pub Company sponsored by Sky (up to 500 sites) (back to top)

Palmers Brewery

With a history stretching back more than 200 years, this is a company that does not shy away from modernisation and will be hoping to repeat its success after taking the title in 2016.

St Austell Brewery

Another previous winner in this contest, St Austell will be hoping the strength of its offer to tenants will help it cross the line in first place in a closely fought competition.


Having divested the bulk of its brewing interests in recent years, Thwaites will be hoping its renewed focus on its pub estate will give it the edge when it comes to taking the title.

Hawthorn Leisure

Probably the youngest company in the running for this category, Hawthorn will be hoping to cause an upset and is certainly set to give the others an impressive run for their money.

Race form

This is one of the more traditional categories within the competition and one that has seen something of a resurgence in 2018 with competition heating up nicely. Recent changes in the pub landscape have seen opportunities open up and the smaller tenanted and leased businesses seem keen to grab them. This category sees a strong mix of the traditional family-owned brewers joined by some of the newer breed of operations and its anyone’s money on who’s going to make it past the post.

The bookies will be looking out for the companies with the strongest credentials in tenant relationships and the sheer scale of support on offer, but with four such strong operations in the running, it is certain to be a close-run race.

Best Tenanted/Leased Pub Company sponsored by Kuehne and nagel (501+ sites) (back to top)

Cirrus Inns_Web
Greene King

This Suffolk-based operator is hoping to do the double having scooped the title last year, and is certainly looking in fine form. Innovation and developments have moved the business forward and              it’s one to keep an eye on.

Star Pubs & Bars

This Heineken-owned operation is firing on all cylinders as it prepares to almost triple in size following the Punch takeover. A previous finalist for a number of years, Star will be hoping to make it              across the line in the lead this year.

Race form

Very much a two-horse race for the awards this year, following seismic change across the sector, however, with two of the industry’s leading operators facing off, this is going to be a race to relish.

With Star poised to expand to three times its size with the absorption of more than half of the former Punch estate, this marks a watershed moment as the business prepares to transform.

Meanwhile, Greene King will be hoping to lay down a gauntlet to the wider industry by being one of the few companies to ever win a Publican Award twice in a row. Its developments in innovation and its flexing of the tenanted model will certainly give the bookies food for thought, while Star will be hoping its impressive track record of investment will give it the lead.

Best Managed Pub Company sponsored by Molson Coors (2-50 sites) (back to top)

Tokyo Industries_Web
New World Trading Company

As last year’s winner, New World Trading Company, will be hoping to hold onto its title here and with a strong track record, the bookies will be keeping a close eye on this one.

Hydes Brewery

Family-owned brewer Hydes has been making strong strides within its managed operations and will be keen to give rivals a good run for their money.

Brewhouse & Kitchen

Hitting the scene in 2012, Brewhouse & Kitchen has expanded at a huge pace and is looking to stride well ahead of the rest of the pack.

Oakman Inns

Another previous winner and regular Publican Awards finalist, Oakman Inns will be seeking to cement its reputation as a company to watch with another solid performance.

Race form

This is going to be one of the most fiercely contested categories of the night with four strong contenders all looking to make it past the post first.

With two previous winners in the running and two relative newcomers to the chase, this should prove a difficult one to call, and bookies will be keeping a close eye on the form.

Managed operations are becoming an ever bigger part of the pub trade landscape and many will be looking to those at the top of the tree for inspiration and ideas, so this is certainly a competition all four will be keen to win.

Best Managed Pub Company sponsored by CPL Training Group (51+ sites) (back to top)

Laine Pub Company_Web
Fuller, Smith & Turner

London-based family brewers Fuller’s has been making great strides into the managed space of late and is hoping its strong investment into sites and standards are going to give it the edge.

Laine Pub Company

A company that has shown explosive growth in recent years, Laine’s is hoping to tap into that success and drive it across the line in this category. With a strong track record behind it, it’s going to be a photo finish.

Race form

Another classic two-horse race, this contest will see two very different companies vying to see which will gain supremacy. Managed operations are gathering pace throughout the sector and this is a category that is only going to grow during the coming years. Previous winners have included Stonegate and Greene King so whichever firm takes the title in this category will be in good company.

Best Pub Employer (up to 500 employees) (back to top)
Cornerstone Inns_Web

Be At One

Cocktails are not the only thing this young vibrant business excels at, and the company is hoping for good odds on this one.

Red Mist Leisure

Another strong contender, and fast moving business, this Home Counties-based operation is hoping to romp home in the final furlongs.

Brewhouse & Kitchen

A newcomer to the contest, but with a strong pedigree and track record in the trade. Brewhouse & Kitchen will be hoping to lead the field.

Bel & The Dragon

A top-end operator, Bel & The Dragon will be hoping its emphasis on training and support will see it over the line.

Cornerstone Inns

This north-west-based collective, a previous winner on the Community front, is hoping to further its success in new fields.

Race form

This is a tough selection, with companies representing a wide range of backgrounds hoping to steal the race.

Employees are, without a doubt, the key to success when it comes to running a first-rate hospitality operation and we’ve got five companies that are all expertly built around the strengths of their teams.

Bookies will be keeping a close eye on all five contenders, and with new operations in the mix, it’s going to be too close to call.

Best Pub Employer sponsored by AB InBev (501+ employees) (back to top)

New World Trading Company

New World will be hoping to retain its title following success in this area last year, and it’s strong track record when it comes to staff makes it one to watch.

Oakman Inns & Restaurants

Another previous winner in this category on at least two occasions, Oakman will be hoping to make it the triple with success in this year’s running.


This Mitchells & Butlers brand is a new entrant to this category and is hoping to steal the race by a nose from it’s more seasoned competitors.

Race form

When it comes to larger operations, it’s more of a challenge to retain a company ethos and focus on ensuring you’re looking after all the team.

However, for our runners and riders in this category, it’s certainly not a problem. All three companies are beacons of good practice, which makes this a very tough race to call.

With two well-seasoned competitors in the running, it will be interesting to see how the newer arrival of Harvester alters the form.

Best Pub Operations Team sponsored by Sky (back to top)

Deltic Group_Web
New World Trading Company

Another race re-run here with New World hoping to once again steal the title for the second year on the bounce. A strong operations team is at the very heart of this business so the race should be           fierce.

Deltic Group

Another previous winner in this space, Deltic will be hoping to stop its rival from doing the double and stealing the crown from under its nose. Its strength in operations has been a key factor in               this business’s success in recent years.

Race form

Another two-horse race, but a real challenge for the bookies to call, with two exceptionally strong contenders with real pedigree when it comes to the area of operations.

While both businesses are competing in different spaces, the strength of their operations teams are vital, and both have played a very significant role in growing their respective companies’ businesses.

Bookies will be looking to New World to continue to power through on its successes from last year, but with Deltic fielding a strong rival option, it’s probably going to be a case of winning by a nose for one of the two.

Best Value Food Offer (back to top)

Farmhouse Inns_Web
Toby Carvery

Another Mitchells & Butlers iconic brand, this is a business that, for many, is a byword for value food, but with a growing competitive marketplace, can it do enough to take the title in this year’s               competition?

Farmhouse Inns

A relative newcomer to the scene, Farmhouse Inns is part of the Greene King managed empire and aiming to give the established order a run for its money. Already proving a big hit with                         consumers, does it have the legs to go the distance?

Race form

With growing economic pressure, the value food sector is one area that’s seeing huge growth and great opportunities. As a result, the market is fierce as consumers search not just for great value, but good quality as well.

That is leading to a huge renaissance in this space and growth of a large number of strong brands, but the two vying for this title are leading the field.

This is going to be a straightforward race to the finish between the more mature, long-established brand and the brash young stallion hoping to cause an upset, and as such, it’s going to be a tough race to call.

Best Food Offer sponsored by Carlsberg (back to top)

Red Mist Leisure_Web
Oakman Inns & Restaurants

A finalist in this category in the past, Oakman Inns will be hoping to go one better this year and get across the line first.

Cirrus Inns

A new entrant in the shape of this company, and one that is facing tough established competition, but certainly a strong contender to lead the field.

Cheshire Cat Pubs & Bars

Defending the title from last year, and having won in the past, Cheshire Cat Pubs & Bars is hoping to maintain its strong claim in this race.

Seafood Pub Company

Another previous winner, Seafood will be hoping to reclaim its title, but is facing some determined chasing from the rest of the pack.

Race form

A strong pack will be chasing the title in this one with many of the runners and riders showcasing a strong pedigree and impressive previous form.

Food is becoming central to many pub offers and being able to offer a top-quality menu without breaking the bank has become a key issue for consumers when choosing where to dine out.

Our four finalists will be going hell for leather to take this one, and it will certainly be an important one to watch.

Best Premium Food Offer (back to top)

Seafood Pub Company_Web
Red Mist Leisure

This eight-strong food-pub chain offers something different in each site, with head chefs maintaining complete autonomy of the food from their kitchens. Growing popularity could well see this                 business first past the post.

Bel & The Dragon

Strong dry sales across Bel & Dragon’s seven sites is driven by the energy of the head office team, with a strong pedigree taking in a breadth of experience spanning some of London’s finest                     restaurants. With fine food a priority, this is one to watch.

Race form

A last-minute withdrawal from the Tom Kerridge Group has left the field wide open with all still to play for.

The rise of the high-end gastropub has meant consumers are happy to pay more for top quality nosh and they’re looking for great pubs to do it in.

Fortunately there’s a good number of pubs rising to meet that challenge, and our two operations in this category are leading that charge.

Food is a common theme in most modern-day pubs, yet delivering the high standard expected of top pubs such as those run by the two contenders in this category is not easy to achieve across multiple sites.

It is not just about the food though, such gastronomic businesses must maintain their pubby feel, service and drinks offer, otherwise they risk becoming another stuffy restaurant.

Best New Pub/Bar sponsored by Heineken (back to top)

Central Oven & Shaker, Newcastle-upon-Tyne_Web
The Alchemist – Media City, Manchester

With its sweeping gold roof, this is a business that is hoping to fly to the finish and it’s sense of style is certainly going to assist it over the line.

Canova Hall, Brixton, London

This former department store from relative new arrivals Albion & East is a treasure and stands out from the crowd in a packed field.

Central Oven & Shaker, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Helping to revive a struggling area of Newcastle, this new concept from Crafted Projects is making waves on the local scene with plans to rove further afield.

Impossible, Manchester

A name like Impossible is certainly going to be hard to live up to, but with innovation dripping throughout, this is a business that is hoping to go the distance.

The Half Moon, Herne Hill, London

A lovingly restored Victorian gin palace has risen from the ashes of this closed and unloved venue, and Fuller’s is putting it front and centre in this race.

The Roebuck Inn, Mobberley, Cheshire

Stepping through the doors is like stepping across the channel into a French bistro - this wonderful site is hoping its mixed pedigree will give it the edge.

Race form

Always hotly contested, the best new bar/pub category saw a flood of entries this year, with several of the bookies expected favourites falling at the first hurdle.

But with a packed field of strong contenders, this is going to be a tough call, not helped by the wide variety and range of businesses in the race. From French influences, to cutting edge innovation, all of our sites are in the running, and it’ll be taken by a nose.

Best Pub Brand/Concept sponsored by Asahi (back to top)

Be At One_Web
The Alchemist

Stylish cocktails, theatre and food combine in this business to give it a real point of difference from the rest of the crowd but will it be enough to get it past the post first?

Be At One

A purist emphasis on cocktails and a wet-led operation has seen this business grow rapidly and it shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

Brewhouse & Kitchen

A newer arrival on the scene but, with experienced operators, this company has created a distinctive brand that has a unique presence in the competitive hospitality space.

Race form

In the tough world of pubs and bars, it’s vital that your operation manages to stand out from the crowd and that is where branding is vital. Having a strong and identifiable format is essential for survival, and our three contenders here have worked hard to make their operations shine.

With three very different businesses in the running, it’s going to be a tough call for the bookies to make – all these companies have very clearly defined propositions that are superbly executed. This will definitely be a race to watch.

Best Drinks Offer sponsored by Coca-Cola European Partners (back to top)

Best drinks offer
Be At One

This 33-strong, and growing, operation has trodden the Best Drinks Offer track at the Publican Awards on more than one occasion, and is hoping its recent menu overhaul will pay off.

Brewhouse & Kitchen

A newcomer to the drinks category and likely the youngest competitor, 11-strong B&K will be hoping its specialist skill in brewing will give it the edge.

North Bar

Northern soul and passion is powering North Bar in the race this year. Each of its eight sites  offers customers something very different and it’s hoping to take the lead in this race.

The Alchemist

Smoke and mirrors will undoubtedly be used by the Alchemist in this race, but certainly not to trick its way to victory. Theatre and perfection combine to give punters a real
thrill at the bar.

New World Trading Company

Last year’s winner, New World Trading Company has been training hard to put in a strong performance in this year’s race, but has it done enough to do the double?

Racing form

This is the hardest race of all the categories, with each pub company having to show its ability to deliver an outstanding drinks offer – whether in one particular segment or across
the board.

What’s certain is the passion and experience on offer by the finalists is sure to make this an exciting sprint across that finish line.

Bookies want to see well-thought-out offers that attract and interest punters at the bar.

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