Meet the finalists: Best Community Pub Operator sponsored by Britvic

By The Morning Advertiser

- Last updated on GMT

Community focus: finalists are demonstrating how they support regulars
Community focus: finalists are demonstrating how they support regulars

Related tags Events Multi-site pub operators Pubco + head office Publican awards

The winner of the Best Community Pub Operator category will have a successful pub estate of community-focused pubs.

Greene King

Greene King has about 600 pubs across the country that focus on their local communities. This includes brands such as Flaming Grill and Pub and Kitchen.

Investing in people is a key strategy driver for the business with a focus on work-life balance, training, development and staff retention.

One of its core values is ‘We Care’ which focuses the company on social mobility programmes, including apprenticeships, Only A Pavement Away (its prisoners leavers programme), and the Government’s Kickstart Scheme.

The community-focused area of the business also recognises pubs play a vital role in helping to tackle social isolation. It has launched its ‘No One Alone’ initiative, which provides more opportunities for individuals to come to its pubs to connect with others.

Recognising the need to tackle the cost-of-living crisis, the company has refocused its offer appealing to families with its "feed the family" deal and seniors with a new menu.

It recognises every pub and community is different and the general managers operating within its community division are given a free reign to take ownership.

There is major marketing support from head office for the sites but they have freedom to conduct their own local marketing with support of their area manager.

Greene King community pubs have also focused on supporting grassroots sports clubs launching its Proud to Pitch in 2021 paying cash grants to grassroots and community sports clubs across the UK.

This year its Locals division raised £1m for Macmillan, its partner charity. Since 2012, it has raised more than £4.3m towards the £13m raised across the whole of the Greene King estate.

Admiral Taverns

Admiral Taverns is a community-focused business with 1,500 sites across the country.

Community is the cornerstone of its pub strategy and it focuses on putting pubs at the heart of their communities, recruiting local publicans and building supportive, long-term relationships with stakeholders.

Many of its licensees or operators are recruited from within the community the pub is situated. It recruits licensees and operators from the local area who may even be regulars or visited the pub before, meaning they understand their customers.

Admiral has recently restructured field operations, which means BDMs now live closer to their pubs and have more local knowledge allowing it to better support their licensees.

The company also supports its licensees and operators in facilitating charity initiatives, fundraising drives and helps them develop successful, sustainable businesses.

Its Proper Pubs division initiated a fundraising drive to install defibrillators in all 168 UK pubs, with 71 sites already having one installed. It drives the community focus in its Proper Pubs division through a regular schedule of events including charity days and fundraising drives supported by advertising material, social media activity and incentives. Proper Pubs raised £35,000 for Chasing the Stigma in just one month, and collected more than 10,000 Easter eggs and 8,000 Christmas selection boxes through its seasonal charity donation drives.

The company is continuing to support its community pubs and has created a utility support package to help it mitigate the impact of the energy crisis, including energy-saving training and advice, in-house utilities team and investment in energy-saving cellar technology.

Urban Village Pubs

Urban Village Pubs is an eight-strong pub group that is bringing innovation to the urban community pub sector.

The pub chain brings the “urban” bar scene, such as artisan food, craft beers and social competitiveness to a pub with the atmosphere of a friendly village local on the community's doorstep. This company ethos is to bring the benefits of a community village into a local urban environment.

Many of its sites, which are often closed before they acquire them, are put back to use in the local community. In Waltham Forest, the company was approached by the local councillor who asked if they would support the community by taking on a derelict pub called the Rookwood. All site reviews include community focus at the top of the agenda and teams are encouraged to “think local, act local” and to give something back to their communities.

Pubs have flexible spaces (village halls) available for free use by community groups and local businesses.

Its drinks menu offers a wide range from the value-led pint, an alcohol-free option to more challenging and unusual beers.

There is a community beer fridge in its sites offering canned beers, which relies on the customer being honest and bringing it to the bar to pay. Support is given to other local producers including small local breweries. Its regular small producer markets held at the Rookwood Village, give fledgling businesses a low-cost way to showcase their products.

The group also engages with other local businesses. For example, its Walton site GM is on the board of the local business improvement district.

Craft Union

Craft Union, which is part of Stonegate Group, has an expanding estate of community pubs. There are currently close to 500 pubs across its estate, which it plans to expand.

The company prides itself on investing and putting quality pubs back into the heart of their community.

Craft Union, which is now seven years old, invests in its properties and over the past year has conducted a reinvestment programme of £4m. Operators are self-employed and take a percentage of sales as salary. The company has reviewed its agreement for operators this year giving them not just a share in the sales performance of the pub but they now have incentivised earnings and a profit share scheme. It has also given them additional support with the rising cost of energy.

Its regional managers have 15 to 18 pubs to manage, which enables them to support operators. Regional managers work closely with their operators to ensure every Craft Union site has a clear plan for its individual community.

This plan includes local groups, causes, sports clubs or welfare groups they want to engage with. Its Winter Warmth​ campaign supported ‘Only A Pavement Away’, helping the homeless. Operators encouraged customers to donate coats, blankets and toiletries to help the homeless through winter. There were 480 bags of warm essentials given out and £8,000 raised for Only A Pavement Away.

The company offers a high level of marketing support, which is provided centrally for events, campaigns and sports. Events and marketing are tailored to meet the demand of individual pubs and their communities as well.

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