At the beginning of March, I was thrilled to be invited to The Publican Awards, organised by trade magazine The Morning Advertiser, celebrating the very best of Britain’s pubs and clubs. Held in the magnificent Evolution in Battersea Park, the awards combined great food and drink, theatrical presentation, fantastic entertainment from Rob Beckett and wonderful company alongside friends and colleagues in the hospitality industry.
But what made it so special was the operators who run the finest venues in the country – not just the award winners, but the finalists as well. It’s a sector that’s often taken for granted, part of the fabric of our society and there whenever we want to nip out to meet friends for a quick drink and a catch up, a pub lunch for family celebrations or a big night out with our pals. And yet right now, when everything is closed except for takeaway or delivery, people are suddenly realising just what they are missing. A warm welcome, great atmosphere, top class food and drink, an escape into the world of clubbing, maybe, but most of all, somewhere that you feel comfortable and gives you the chance to relax away from your own home.
As a judge of the Publican Awards for the last three years, I have seen first-hand just how much love, care and attention is invested in these businesses. This year, I was on the judging panel for the Late Night Operator category and we reviewed the finalists in depth, with focus on the operational, finance and marketing aspects of their businesses. There was evidence of solid trading and getting the essentials right, yes, but every one demonstrated great innovation and progress in improving staff development and customer experience. Even within this one category, the finalists all had something different to offer and had created a commendable out of home experience.
And it is people that are core to all their achievements. Hospitality employees are a creative and resilient bunch, who always work their socks off to put their customers first. If you read some of the stories of what has been happening during lockdown, you will see that there is an inspirational group of leaders in the sector and their vision and enthusiasm really motivates and galvanises their teams and others in the industry. From lobbying government for support, feeding the homeless, supplying food for NHS staff and care workers, being a hub for community care and adapting their trading model to provide takeaway and delivery options, our pubs and clubs are still there for us.
That spirit is why I have absolute confidence that hospitality will bounce back. Pubs, clubs, restaurants, hotels, leisure facilities – they are all preparing for life after lockdown and, whatever challenges they face, they will be there to welcome us back. It may not be exactly as it was before, but they will evolve to adapt to the circumstances and will be just as good as we remember them. In fact, they will be even better.
A round-up of the 2020 event can be found here.