The Publican Awards: a trip down memory lane

By Rebecca Weller

- Last updated on GMT

Publican Awards: celebrating excellence across the sector
Publican Awards: celebrating excellence across the sector

Related tags Publican awards Events London

With the 2024 Publican Awards set to take place in less than 12 weeks, The Morning Advertiser has taken a look back at the last five years of the event.

Now in its 32nd​ year, the biggest awards in the industry, organised by The Morning Advertiser,​ will return to Battersea Evolution in London on Wednesday 27 March 2024.

Since its inception in 1992, the awards have celebrated the best in the business, from food and drink to brewing, accommodation and sustainability, and this year is no different, with firms from all corners of the sector shortlisted across 17 categories.

Looking back to five years ago, the sector celebrated in a glittering ceremony, which took place on Tuesday 13 March 2018, hosted by actor and comedian Rob Brydon.

The evening saw New World Trading Company (NWTC) take home three awards, including Best Drinks Offer and Best Pub Employer (501+ employees), while Brewhouse & Kitchen (B&K) scooped two titles, including Best Managed Pub Company (2-50 sites).

Fantastic recognition 

North Bar/North Brewing Co was also awarded the title of Best Brewing Pub Company for the second year in a row in 2018, which operations manager Richard Fiddaman said he was “shocked” by, with the Best Tenanted/Leased Pub Company (501+ sites) title going to Star Pubs & Bars.

Star property and strategy director Chris Moore said at the time: “[It is] fantastic – this is an amazing achievement [and] fantastic recognition for the work we are doing every day - for our licensees who are out there, making great consumer experiences every day of the week.”

Moving to 2019, attendees were entertained by comedian Alan Carr at the event on Tuesday 12 March.

The UK’s biggest pubco, Stonegate Group, took home a trio of awards, including Best Managed Pub Company (51+ sites) and Best Pub Employer (501+ employees), while Fuller’s was crowned Best Accommodation Operator and Best Pub Operations Team.

Other 2019 winners included Arc Inspirations, NWTC, as well as Inception Group and Stonegate’s boss, Simon Longbottom, who was voted Business Leader of the Year.

On receiving the Best Community Pub Operator award, a Stonegate spokesperson said at the time: “It feels fantastic to win the award as we’ve put a lot of hard work into it.

"Every single one of our employees were great and hopefully they will see the benefit of this award too.”

“More so, we’ve got a fantastic team back at Stonegate – this award is dedicated to their hard work.”

In 2020, pub bosses donated more than £16,000 to two charities at the event, which was hosted by comedian Rob Beckett at Evolution on 4 March and attended by some 1,500 people.

Money was raised for the Licensed Trade Charity and Only A Pavement Away’s Pedalling for Pubs initiative, which saw 28 riders from the industry cycle more than 335km across the deserts of Jordan that June.

The 2020 Publican Awards winners included Anglian Country Inns in the Best Premium Food Offer category and Greene King owned Hickory’s in the Best Brand/Concept category, for which the brand is also a finalist in for this year’s awards.

North Brewing Co was once again named Best Brewing Pub Company while Fuller’s chief executive Simon Emenny picked up Business Leader of the Year.

Other 2020 winners included Hippo Inns, Inception Group, Stonegate, Brakspear and Shepherd Neame.

Despite being one of the toughest years on record for the sector, pub companies across the UK continued to excel, with the awards recognising those who continued to fly the flag in the face of uncertainty as the Covid pandemic raged.

Challenges and disasters 

But restrictions and lockdowns couldn’t stop the Publican Awards in, which took place virtually.

Greene King was crowned Community Pub Operator of the Year, Tenanted and Leased Pub Company of the Year and its CEO Nick Mackenzie also scooped the title of Business Leader of the Year for being instrumental in steering his business through choppy waters.

On his win, Mackenzie said at the time: "I never expect these things, of course I’m pleased but a massive shoutout to my team. They absolutely were great. Every single one of our employees were great and hopefully they will see the benefit of this award too.”

Other winners included Liberation Group and B&K while BrewDog were named the Best Sustainable Pub Company.

Asahi also donated £10 for every attendee of the awards towards industry charity Only A Pavement Away, raising a total of £6,250.

Speaking at the time, Ed Bedington, editor of The Morning Advertiser​​, said the awards had “certainly been different” in 2021 but that the “ethos remained the same”.

He continued: “Many companies, having faced the challenges and disasters of 2020 could be forgiven for pulling down the shutters and sitting the crisis out.

“Our finalists, and many others in the sector, did the exact opposite of that, rose to the challenge and did some amazing things.”

Returning to Battersea Evolution on Wednesday 30 March, the 2022 Publican Awards were hosted by former Top Gear​​ front man and Phoenix Nights​ star Paddy McGuinness, with guests enjoying humour, music and plenty of food and drinks in person once again.

UK and Channel Islands-based business Liberation scored a trio of accolades in 2022, taking home the titles of Best Accommodation Operator, Best Managed Pub Company (51+ sites) and Best Premium Food Offer.

“It’s amazing to see the incredible businesses shortlisted across the categories.

Speaking at the time, Liberation Group managing director Jayson Perfect said: "It’s absolutely amazing the team has worked extremely hard over the past couple of years.

"The combination of walking away with three awards that we work so passionately hard for on a daily basis is phenomenal."

Other winners included Peach Pubs, Rekom UK, Craft Union Pub Company, Arc Inspirations, Punch Pubs, Albion & East and Hall & Woodhouse.

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls was also recognised at the event with the Outstanding Industry Contribution award.

Last year’s event was hosted by comedian Dara O’Brien on Wednesday 29 March and attended by more than 1,400 people, with four companies taking home multiple awards.

BrewDog won two accolades in 2023, Best Pub Brand/Concept and Best New Site, the latter of which BrewDog Bars CEO James Brown said the team were “most proud of”.

Nightcap was crowned the Best Late-Night Operator while the businesses CEO, Sarah Willingham, was named Business Leader of the year.

On winning ​Business Leader of the Year, Willingham said: "I was so surprised, I just didn’t expect it, I thought ‘you’ve not been here long enough’, I was just so happy. I am really made up."

Greene King also scored a double win in the Best Pub Employer (501+ employees) and Best Tenanted/Leased Pub Company (501+ sites) categories.

Ahead of the 2024 ceremony, Bedington said: “It’s amazing to see the incredible businesses shortlisted across the categories.

“We can’t wait to celebrate and honour the best of the industry with you all at the sector’s biggest party this March.” See the full list of this year’s finalists here​.

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