Find out about the Best Food Offer finalists

By The Morning Advertiser

- Last updated on GMT

Publican Awards finalists 2024 for Best Food Offer

Related tags Events Publican awards Multi-site pub operators

Food must be a key part of this category’s winner, with a successful mainstream food offer across its estate.

The finalists are:

Brucan Pubs

The company name Brucan means to 'use and enjoy' in old English, a fitting name for a business with honest quality at its core.  Sustainability and consistency is at the heart of the business, with co-founders James​ and Nick relentlessly instilling these values in every aspect.  The business has a collection of four pubs across Berkshire and Surrey.

Sourcing and menu design highlight the operator’s commitment to sustainability with a zero-waste food policy and a nose-to-tail approach. A significant proportion of the company’s ingredients are sourced from regenerative farmers and small holdings and the company exclusively uses day boat fish caught from British coastal waters.  Sourcing whole animals and fish where appropriate allows for the company to get the most out of its produce alongside maximising value for money for the company and its customers.

The company has retained a generous set-menu lunch offer of 2 courses for £23 or three for £27 from the main a la carte menu despite a tough economic backdrop, a challenging yet rewarding feat that has demonstrated its commitment to local customer needs. 

The ingredients promise quality and craftmanship and chefs and FOH staff at all levels understand this through supplier visits, thorough briefings, and daily learning experiences.  The business invests heavily in staff training, wellness, and work-life balance – a financial gamble that has proved to deliver strong staff retention and a circular economy in the proficiency of its current team. 

The company has furthered its sustainability credentials this year with innovations including using wastage from fruit and veg its in kitchens to enhance its cocktail ranges on the bar and introducing new technology including Procure Wizard to optimise costing, allergen and nutritional analysis.

Consistent staffing levels, menus and produce allows for high quality, well-engaged and well-practised staff, delivering rich hospitality experiences that aim to prompt repeat visits from the local community. 

Cheshire Cat Pubs & Bars

Cheshire Cat Pubs & Bars is a collection of seven independently well-run local jewels with a common thread of the ownership. 

Co-owner team Tim and Mary have reinvigorated and saved tired and sad establishments that were once vital community hubs at the risk of permanent closure.  Even openings over the road from one another have failed to cannibalise on improving business, highlighting the need in the area for quality pub food at a fair price. 

The history and heritage of each of the pubs are respected and capitalised on with design and décor giving subtle nods to buildings that were previously schoolhouses, blacksmith workshops and the like. 

There has been some excellent innovation across the breadth of the company’s estate, with each pub team empowered to explore new ideas with the guidance from Mary and Tim. 

Tasting nights have been transformational for the group, with tasting events including Whiskey tastings paired with food, a five course tasing menu Gala dinner-style event on New Years Eve at the group’s Fitzherbert Arms and common cuisine-specific weeks at pubs alongside the full menus to educate local customers and excite chef teams.

Dishes are cooked from scratch daily from kitchens that vary in size, with some teams operating in incredibly small kitchens. The group has a focus on local British produce, sourcing potatoes and eggs from local farms and its ice cream which comes direct from a local dairy farm. 

The group has made notable developments in its staff training initiatives introducing the idea of champions into the business. Each pub has a food, wine, ale, beer, and spirit champion.

Champions for each category and pub meet up and share knowledge, learn, visit suppliers, operators and then take acquired knowledge back to their respective teams. The idea stemmed from not wanting to have arbitrary training guides but short and quick learning moments. 

Oakman Group

Founded by Peter Borg-Neal in 2007, Oakman Group has since grown to more than 30 venues, though it’s model and vision of great food and drink in light and airy spaces has been unwavering.   

Oakman Group has experimented more recently with growing its own produce, from a Hampshire-based site with a large poly tunnel. Chefs in the group share produce from the one kitchen garden, with the initiative an exercise of learning to see what and how much is feasible to then use in-house. The company has ambitions for schools and other groups to visit and use its kitchen garden and the operator has a new site in the pipeline in Hatfield with a much larger outdoor space that would be fit for a second and larger kitchen garden.

Oakman Group stood out in its staff training and engagement initiatives. It was clear chefs are the leaders of the business and a high focus on training and retainment ensures high standards in its kitchens. One particularly exciting initiative is its Chef academy. Chef academy is based in two kitchens for training at its Woburn site. Entrants do not need a CV; they simply need to be 17 or just out of school and need to have an interest in food. It is a two-week bootcamp, which leads to apprenticeships within the business. Chef academy is run by senior chefs who do the training that includes employability and skills. Since its inception in December 2022, the business has retained 77% of the team that develop through its Chef Academy.

The group’s core estate has a focus on Mediterranean cuisine alongside British pub classics, recently investing in perfecting its Neapolitan pizza offering through authentic wood fire ovens and Italian-sourced ingredients. The business is also committed to exploring more natural plant-based ingredients as opposed to faux meats, working with Symplicity. The company offers products based on vegetables including mushrooms and beetroot and are fermented with various flavourings to re-create the texture and taste of different meat products. 

Public House Group

Oxfordshire-based business Public House Group has two sites – the Pelican in Notting Hill and the Bull​ in Charlbury, Oxfordshire.

The latter has been standing for over five centuries and its most recent restoration from Public House Group has reinvigorated the building and recreated the charm and character of a traditional coach house. 

As a smaller group, the business sources its vegetables from a local agricultural project and most of its meat from local farms. Others perhaps would be phased by the challenges of scale and smaller producers and growers perhaps not being able to deliver in quantity and frequency wanted. The business has worked to overcome these challenges and take the challenges of hyper-locality in its stride. Chefs are given creative license to experiment with produce that arrives, a sometimes-challenging feat as noted in the summer when a huge number of cucumbers arrived.  The team spoke passionately about its sourcing including the chef’s, who embrace the high-quality local produce they receive.  

The menu is brief and minimalistic, it doesn’t hide behind lengthy descriptions allowing the produce to do the talking, this also keeps changes simple when needed to be actioned and communicated with guests.  The brief menu invites questions for front of house staff who are encouraged to talk guests through the menu at length.

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