Punch Pubs & Co held their first National Publican of the Year Awards recently to celebrate excellence throughout the estate, recognising operations that deliver everything from the best drinks or food offer to the most sustainable business.
Hosting the event at its head office in Burton-on-Trent, TV star Mark Durdon Smith, along with Punch CEO Clive Chesser and COO Andy Spencer, paid tribute to operators from across the UK.
Chesser told the finalists: “I am always humbled and immensely proud whenever I visit our pubs, and nothing has been more fun or exciting than meeting the fantastic people and pubs we have in the finals of these awards.”
“Having the pleasure of knowing many of you and your pubs, I share the view of my fellow judges that everyone sat in this room epitomises the true spirit of hospitality, and each of you runs a pub at the very heart of the communities they thrive within. It is our privilege to host you tonight in our home, in our own ‘public house’, and I am super proud of all of the office team who have volunteered to be your waiting team and look after you this evening.”
With nine regional winners, and eight category winners to be revealed, the overall top prize went to Paul and Emma Gibbon of the Plough in Prestbury, Cheltenham, who took home the crown of Punch Pubs 2023 Publican’s of the Year.
Chesser applauded the husband and wife team for running a pub that their community loves and feels at home in, and also commended them for their collaborative work with the people in their communities and for nurturing talent.
He said: “Paul and Emma are passionate about their team. When times are tough, and we’ve all experienced that more recently than ever, they are calm and pragmatic with a laser-like focus on what is needed to come through adversity and continue to thrive.
“They put their heart and soul into their pub every single day, whilst also being a huge advocate and champion of others, both locally and nationally.”
Emma added: "We made working with the community a priority; any ideas we have for the pub, we try to involve them, and likewise, if anyone in the team or the village has an idea for the pub, we listen and invariably give it a go!
"Since taking over here, Paul stepped into the kitchen, and we are incredibly proud of the reputation we've built with the food. Creating a menu that has something for everyone. The volume of food that Paul and the team create and the people we serve from that tiny kitchen is amazing.
"I love nothing more than connecting with the team, nurturing their talent and, in many cases, bringing them out of their shells and encouraging them to be the best version of themselves. We couldn't run this pub and do everything we do without them; they are part of our family."
Another big winner on the night was Diane Crathern, of the Richmond Arms, Godalming, who took home the Lifetime Achievement Award. Chesser added: “I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Diane’s pub on several occasions, and I can tell you, when you walk into her pub, you instantly feel a sense of warmth.
“You could, and people do, lose time in this beautiful, traditional pub because you’re made to feel at home. Diane thoroughly deserves this award; she has been a stalwart within her community for over forty years, and is quite simply an inspiration to anyone who wants to run a bloody good pub."
Diane added: "I was absolutely amazed, I didn’t expect it at all. Last year I celebrated 40 years in the pub, which I credit to having good family, good friends, and support around me. I also have a fantastic team, our chef Anne has been with me for 39 years and Joe, our Bar Manager has been here for 20 years. It is a special pub, and it feels lovely to have that recognition."
The winners in full were:
National Publicans of the Year – Paul and Emma Gibbon, The Plough Inn - Prestbury
Regional Publicans of the Year –
Chris Stockton, The Ferry - Wallasey
Kate Lowe, The Shakespeare Inn - Hull
Emma Griffiths, The Wickstead Arms - Nantwich
Samantha Foster, The Ship - Grays
Becky Davies and Cameron Foster-Smith, The Bulls Head - Countesthorpe
Paul and Emma Gibbon, The Plough - Prestbury
Steve and Trish Ulyatt, William Mitchell - Morecambe
Nik Ranhem and Nathan Fowler, The Dog House - Kennington
Dom and Shell Roberts, The Anglesey Arms - Halnaker
Best Pub Entertainment & Sport – Debs Wilbee, The Jolly Sportsman - Chesham
Community Champion – Selena and Brian Ogden, The Butchers Arms - Southam
Best Drinks Offer - Dennis Wann, The Sailmakers Arms - Hull
Best Outdoor Offer – Chris Driver, Oak Tree Inn - Darlington
Best Newcomer – David Donlan and Catherine Hall, Seven Stars – Poulton-le-Fylde
Best Food Offer – Tom and Katie Hannon, The Rising Sun - Truro
Mental Health & Wellbeing Award – Vivian Bulmer, Two Pointers - Leeds
Best Sustainable / Eco Friendly Pub – Michael Lenthall, Hen House - Cannock
Lifetime Achievement Award - Diane Crathern, The Richmond Arms - Godalming