Key to award-winning pubs is close-knit teams

By Amelie Maurice-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Dream team: award-winning pubs attribute tight-knit teams to success (Getty/SolStock)
Dream team: award-winning pubs attribute tight-knit teams to success (Getty/SolStock)

Related tags Training Gastropub Best restaurants awards Lancashire Michael wignall

A tight-knight team and relaxed working environment are key to success, said top chefs from pubs placing in this year’s National Restaurant Awards.

In May, the awards ranked the 100 top restaurants in the UK, with pub staff attributing teamwork, a laid-back environment and a friendly atmosphere to their places in the list.

Head chef at second place North Yorkshire pub the Angel at Hetton Michael Wignall said that striving for excellence every day is what pushes him and the team.

The chef, who has won a Michelin star in every kitchen he has headed up since 1993, said: “You don't want someone to feel like they're just a number and just coming in, and they're a little bit insignificant, except the work that they're putting in. 

“It’s important for me, for them to feel a part of what we're creating, and then they just feel a part of it and they'll embrace it more.”

Stephen Harris described his kitchen at the Sportsman, in Seasalter, Kent, as a “friendly place to work”, where the priority is to “have a good time”. He said: “Everyone looks out for each other here, and everyone's got a big pride in their work.

High-pressure environments

The history-teacher-turned-chef continued: “[…] There’s definitely a culture in some places that’s a bit tough.

“Maybe they put themselves under so much pressure that they you know, everyone gets a bit worn, but not with us.”

The staff at the Sportsman, which ranked 16th, have worked there for up to 20 years. Harris believes this is a testament to the environment. He said; “If they didn't like it, they’d go.”

Similarly, the Parkers Arms in Newton-in-Bowland, Lancashire’s chef-patron believes it is the community feel alongside great food that makes her pub stand out. 

Stosie Madi said: “We are a small family run business, we're a very close-knit team, and I’m in my kitchen, at my post, every day. 

“[…] The front of house team that has been there from day one is still out there. So, people know who we are, we know who they are. 

“We've been open almost 14 years now. and we've had the same people coming and new customers have come back over and over again. There is that sense of familiarity.”

Madi said that all the food is cooked by herself and her small team at the pub, which ranked 23rd.

She said: “We’re not corporate, we're not a chain: and I think that's what makes us very special”.

A place to relax 

According to the joint-owner of the White Swan at Fence, Lancashire, Gareth Ostick, it’s the relaxed feel of a pub that sets it apart from a fine dining restaurant. He said: “A pub should have banter. […] It’s is a place to socialise and, you know, you get tables talking to each other and laughing with each other.”

Ostick partly pinned the laid-back atmosphere of his pub, which ranked 36th, to its location in East Lancashire, where people are “very, very, very friendly”.

He said: “I want my staff to enjoy being at work. I think they do, I think that comes across when they're talking to the customers.

“If they walk out of the kitchen with a smile, that comes across. The cook, they’re approaching the table with a smile, you know. 

“It’s the smiles that make people feel relaxed when they're dining with you.”

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