Publican Awards 2022

Meet the finalists: Best Pub Brand/Concept

By The Morning Advertiser

- Last updated on GMT

Publican Awards 2022 finalists in Best Pub Brand/Concept

Related tags: Branding + marketing, Events, Publican awards

The award for Best Pub Brand/Concept will be presented to the firm that demonstrates business success, clear strategies and a strong focus on marketing the brand via all channels.

Chef & Brewer (Greene King)

Amazingly, the Chef & Brewer brand name dates back to 1901, and while it’s gone through many owners and iterations since then, the fundamental concept of serving good food in a good pub has only become more popular.

Since 2015, the custodian of Chef & Brewer has been Greene King, and the last couple of years have seen the brewer take a firmer grip on what can make the estate stand out in a busy marketplace and bring a new freshness and energy to the 167-strong country-wide estate.

Consumer insight has helped clarify what Chef & Brewer is all about, and Greene King has boosted the brand’s reputation among pub-goers by focusing on what makes it tick, most importantly giving each pub more of a local feel and shaking loose the chains of being a chain.

Alongside some high-quality refurbishments that seek to inject character into the sites, both the food menu and the drinks range have been strengthened. Supplementing the slimmed down main menu, chefs can mix and match dishes from a library of seasonal specials to give the offer a point of difference, while general managers can add local cask ales to the Greene King portfolio.

Teams are not only trained in the elements of the Chef & Brewer brand but also in understanding their own pub’s particular market.

Behind the scenes, the first lockdown became an opportunity to roll out a new table management system that brings improved service standards and allows staff to attend to pleasing their customers.

Greene King plans to keep evolving the Chef & Brewer concept as it learns more, and will add three new sites this summer, plus another five next year.

Chestnut Group

Philip Turner opened his first pub in 2013, and his insight that East Anglia needed more high-quality modern food pubs is bearing fruit, as Chestnut Group has grown to 13 beautifully designed sites plus two in development and another pair in the pipeline.

When lockdown rudely interrupted progress, the company seized the opportunity to fully harness the power of the Chestnut brand, holding onto staff by making them feel a part of the family and communicating for the first time with customers as a group, rather than through the individual pubs.

Now trading is even better than it was pre-pandemic. Since 2020 Chestnut has improved like-for-like turnover by 25%, acquired five sites and began a refurbishment and rebranding programme that makes the pubs feel more a part of the collection. It has also expanded the operation by adding giant, spectacular tepees to beer gardens as customers take to dining al fresco.

Surveys show that the pubs have improved their reputation in the minds of guests, too. Between them they now enjoy a social media following topping 100,000, and the database of loyal customers has grown considerably.

Each pub retains its own identity, however. Head chefs devise their own menus, and open kitchens make for a lively focus at some sites, while local drinkers are not forgotten thanks to bar areas in every pub serving local cask beers.

Letting rooms furnished to the same high standards as the rest of the venue are another feature of the estate.

Charitable activities that started in lockdown have continued under the umbrella of The Giving Tree, and a Chestnut Club loyalty scheme has been launched as the group looks to deepens it relationship with local communities still further.

Fireside Inns (Punch Pubs)

Launched in October 2020, Fireside Inns is a new concept from Punch Pubs that seeks to make the most of the group’s heritage properties. Twenty houses across the UK have so far received the investment and attention they need to give tired and neglected sites a new lease of life under direct management.

The brand is designed to fit both rural ‘scenic’ locations and city streets where pubs have more of a buzz about them and are more focused on serving the immediate local community.

But every Fireside pub is proudly different, operating more like an independent business than part of a chain, and refurbishments have been careful to preserve and amplify their individual identities. Experienced general managers have been hired and given plenty of scope to make their personal mark on the business and they are incentivised according to its success.

Once a quarter they all come together to share ideas and best practice and feel the benefits of being part of a larger group.

While most sites share the same food menu featuring an enticing mix of pub classics and modern dishes, often made with produce from a named provenance, a handful of virtuoso chefs have been given the freedom to create their own menus. There is flexibility on the drinks side, too, enabling pubs to serve local cask ales, and a local craft beer, too.

Each pub has its own bespoke marketing campaigns and materials, designed by Fireside’s dedicated head office team.

The collection will continue to expand with seven more Punch leases already identified as suitable for conversion to the Fireside treatment, and the team behind it believe there’s scope around the country for plenty more.

Hickory’s Smokehouse

Fusing casual dining family restaurants with the values of a community pub, over 12 years 13 Hickory’s Smokehouses have opened in suburban locations around northern England, serving authentic dishes from America’s Deep South in a style tuned to British tastes.

A 14th​ site opens in March, and the pandemic has done nothing to stall the progress of this vibrant brand. It’s added four venues and doubled its turnover since 2019 as customers returned after lockdown to places they feel confident they’ll have a good experience.

Serious investment has also gone into the gardens as people develop a taste for dining and drinking outdoors.

A Hickory’s feels home to everyone from families picking and mixing the fun menu to business folk sitting down for a meeting, and from fans of American sports watching the action on the screens to locals who just drop in for a pint.

Teams on the ground are focused on making sure those customers get what they came for, and they are supported by a dozen-strong training team at head office.

All 1,300 employees were furloughed during lockdown, and management kept the communications flowing online while staff took the initiative to spend their time raising funds for the Cask for Kids charity.

While they were closed pubs also fired up the giant smokers in the kitchens in order to provide meals to regulars who were missing their Hickory’s, and the idea has now expanded into a nationwide delivery service called Hickory’s at Home.

That’s generating a following further afield and the plan now is to continue to open new sites at the rate of four a year – based on the belief that there’s scope for the distinctive Hickory’s experience in most towns and cities.

Related topics: Events & Occasions

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