'Atmosphere and community' key to GBPA's Best Pub for Sport

By Amelie Maurice-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

What makes the Royal Dyche GBPA best pub for sport 2023?

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Any pub can have amazing TVs and sound systems, but it's the sense of community and inclusivity that makes this year's GBPA Best Sports Pub winner a cut above the rest.

Justine Bedford was “really overwhelmed” when the Royal Dyche was called up on stage at the ceremony in Manchester.

But what does she believe makes the pub a cut above the rest? “It’s going above and beyond,” said Bedford. While lots of venues boasted the best TVs and sound systems, anybody could match up to that she said, and it was the “atmosphere and community feeling” that set her pub apart.

And as you step into the pub, there are many finer details that make the pub stand out, from director box seats in the beer garden, to claret blue on the ceilings and wooden seats from the local Burnley football club.

It’s also important to Bedford that her venue is inclusive: while her pub is football-driven, she feels it also welcomes fans of other sports like horseracing.

Whenever there’s a major event on, guests at the pub can also enjoy free hotdogs at halftime. “It’s a really nice incentive to make people feel welcome, feel part of something and part of a group,” said Bedford.

The pub is also involved in the local community. It sponsors a women’s cricket team, and has its own men’s football team as well.

“It’s all about pushing your brand out there in the community as well as support it as a whole,” explained the operator. “As long as you support the community, they’ll support us.”

The team was “really proud” to win the reward, and it reflected the hard work put into the sports offering over the past 12 works.

It’s the strongest team Bedford’s ever had, and staff turnover is low. The pub hosts two social events a year: one at the end of the football season in June, and one just after Christmas. This helps remind the staff how important they are.

“If you get on with the staff, that reflects behind the bar on the customers and gives us that welcoming atmosphere,” Bedford added.

She also supports her team through increasing pay throughout the year, which she said is a “big incentive” as the cost-of-living crisis hits hard.

The Royal Dyche is also rolling out merchandise given to the staff. This helps advertise the business and helps them feel “part of the team”.

Since winning the award, the team has been “overwhelmed” but how many high-profile people have reached out to congratulate the pub. It had definitely had a positive impact on trade, said the operator.

A lot of regulars had also said they were really proud to call it their local. “It’s just nice me and my team are being rewarded for our hard work,” she said.

And what can customers look forward to in the future? The back bar is being ripped out and redone, said Bedford, and she is thinking of putting in some LED screens to advertise events and drinks on offer.

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