Find out about the Best Community Pub Operator finalists, sponsored by Britvic

By The Morning Advertiser

- Last updated on GMT

Category focus: the Community Pub Operator finalists outline the initiatives they have undertaken
Category focus: the Community Pub Operator finalists outline the initiatives they have undertaken

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

Judges for this category are looking for a company that has a successful pub estate of community-focused pubs.

The finalists are:

Proper Pubs

Proper Pubs, the wet-led community pub group, which is part of Admiral Taverns, recently opened its 200th​ site.

And there are plans for more roll-out as it is looking to open 45 new sites a year across the UK. There has also been investment within the estate as Admiral Taverns also ploughed more than £27m into refurbishments and updates​ across its Proper Pubs and tenanted and leased estate in England, Scotland and Wales last year.

Community is the cornerstone of its Proper Pubs strategy and it focuses on putting pubs at the heart of their communities.

The pub group works on the basis of an operator agreement where the licensees are self-employed and receive a percentage of the turnover.

Innovation has been at the core of the approach from Proper Pubs this year.

It recently announced the launch of a new mid-market pub concept. While Proper Pubs has traditionally focused on value wet-led sites, this new mid-market model is designed to maintain great value but will offer customers something different with an “extensive” wine list, craft lager, and coffee.

The group has a strategy of working closely with other local businesses. This can include anything from running events such as Christmas fairs and working with food vendors.

As part of this approach the group wants to utilise its pub spaces including its carparks making them available for car boots and school drop offs. It also wants to use its function rooms to host women’s institute or kids’ birthday parties – all of which will be available to the community for free. 

The company recruits licensees and operators from the local area who may even be regulars or have visited the pub before, meaning they understand their customers. And rewarding people who live locally is part of an inclusive strategy.  Its Proper Pubs Community Hero Awards have been designed to recognise people within the community that are unsung heroes.

Charity fundraising is also a focus. Its pubs have raised money to install defibrillators and all pubs will have one outside or within 100m of the pub.  The company also supports Chasing the Stigma – a charity committed to normalising mental health. In May last year, Admiral Taverns raised £100,000 for the charity of which £67,000 was raised by Proper Pubs.

Craft Union

Craft Union, which is part of Stonegate Group, has an expanding estate of community pubs.

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

Craft Union now has close to 600 wet-led pubs serving communities across the country. It empowers each pub to support the local needs.

The Craft Union model works on the basis of an operator agreement where the licensees are self-employed and receive a percentage of the turnover.

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.

There has been a raft of innovation at the company this year. A new segmentation of its growing estate means it can target marketing and promotions to the different types of pubs. While the estate remains wet-led Craft Union pubs are encouraged to work with food operations when needed but they must meet their food safety requirements. 

The company has introduced a Centres of Excellence programme nationwide, which enables new operators to spend time with its experienced community operators to understand how they can operate their business while supporting the local community. The company has also introduced a new apprenticeship scheme to help with the development of employees within the business. A new incentive scheme for operators has also been rolled out across its pubs.

Craft Union pubs have been asked to nominate great community projects for support. Nominations flooded in and the good causes ranged from struggling families to hospices, Scout groups to community gardens and grass roots boxing clubs and football teams. As a result, it donated over £65,000 to local community projects as a part of its ‘Love your Local’ campaign.

Craft Union’s 2023 Toy Appeal​ saw over 120 pubs take park, resulting in the donation of nearly 2,000 sacks and hampers and helping to raise a further £32,000 for charities. The Toy Appeal was launched by the group in 2019, giving Craft Union pubs the opportunity to engage and have positive impact on their local communities and charitable organisations nationwide.

Urban Village Pubs

Urban Village Pubs is an eight-strong pub managed group that focuses on bringing the benefits of a community village into a local urban environment. 

It delivers artisan food, craft beers and social competitiveness to the pubs with the atmosphere of a friendly village local on the community's doorstep. The pubs also 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. The company focuses on supporting local beer suppliers through each of its sites. It stocks a range of craft beers as part of its offer as well as small batch brews from local breweries. 

There is a community beer fridge in its venues offering canned beers which relies on the customer being honest and bringing it to the bar to pay. 

It works closely with local businesses to forge collaborative working as part of its strategy to “own your own high street.” Its initiative called “Random Acts of Kindness” supports other businesses and people in the community. Each pub also works hard to be involved in local events and support local initiatives. 

Urban Village Pubs continues to nurture new initiatives and to expand others such as free community cinema, parent and baby clubs, gift carding, deaf awareness and safe space training. 

Over the past year the pub company has run a new staff survey to engage with its employees. It found that it was benchmarking ahead of almost every industry measure. It brought in a third party to review this including looking at its processes and communications as well as its company values. 

It has introduced a loyalty scheme for customers which gives points for every £1 spent. This is linked into personalised rewards and is not only for individuals but also for societies and groups who will be offered meeting room hire and food options.

The company is planning further site expansion with the plan to roll-out mainly in freehold pubs. 

Blind Tiger Inns

Blind Tiger Inns, is a 20-strong pub chain in the North West, which believes in the transformative power of community engagement.

The pubs, which are wet-led, are situated across the North West from Liverpool, Wigan, Burnley, Stockport to Manchester.

The venues, 19 of which are leased from Star Pubs & Bars, are a combination of city centre and community pubs which each deliver their own personality, history and trading style. The pubs aim to provide the best in entertainment, live sport and fundraising events as well as an eclectic mix of lagers, cask ales, wines and spirits. 

The business has made a big focus on utilising external areas with outside gardens being crucial to the operation.

The pub group works on the basis of a management agreement where the licensees are self-employed and receive a percentage of the turnover.

The company has engaged an external consultant who has mystery visited all of the sites to help analyse and put together a training plan for each pub. These visits included standards, serve and staff interactions. This will now look at putting targeted training schemes for the sites based on what they need and ensuring better standards for all.

Blind Tiger Inns has introduced an innovative bonus scheme for its operators which runs on key metrics within its pubs. It is about incentivising the managers to do a better job and increase profits that has a mutual benefit.

Whether it's supporting local charities, organising events for community development, or contributing to causes that matter events carefully address the specific needs and interests of each community.  Events range from Christmas initiatives such as breakfast with Santa, collecting gifts for underprivileged children, and everything from kids’ parties to sports such as football.

Blind Tiger Inns is planning further expansion of its estate via the leased pubs route.

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