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Shepherd Neame Collects A Clean Sweep Of Awards

The Abbey Hotel in Battle was named Pub of the Year in the annual Shepherd Neame Pub Awards, held at Canterbury Rugby Club.

A total of 15 awards were given out at the event, which celebrates exceptional achievement in the teams across its 300-strong estate. Three were individual awards, which this year included Bar Person of the Year for the first time.

Winning licensees Sharon and Gordon Thompson took on the Abbey Hotel eight years ago, with help from their grown-up children and partners, and today run a total of four pubs with Shepherd Neame. Their other sites are The Castle Hotel in Eynsford, The Woolpack in Chilham and The White Horse, Maldon.

The hard-working family take a hands-on approach to all their pubs, tackling extensive renovations themselves and striving for excellence in every element, from the décor and service to the quality of food and drink served.

Sharon and Gordon’s son Charlie and daughter-in-law Kate run the Abbey Hotel, where they met six years ago. Sharon said: “Their attention to detail is so good. They are a credit to themselves with what they have brought to the business. The Pub of the Year award is something they really deserve.”

The family also celebrated winning Best Accommodation Offer for The Castle Hotel, which is run by Sharon and Gordon’s daughter Elizabeth and fiancé Jacob Harper.

Sharon paid tribute to her family for their efforts, describing herself as ‘very proud’. She said:

“They work so hard, all of them do. We couldn’t do it without them and I cannot stress enough how much it is a team effort, all of us working together."

Managed Pub of the Year went to The Market House in Maidstone, which was praised for providing excellent service, top quality food and drink, and creating a regular following for the live music it hosts every week.

General Manager Matt Green, who has worked at the pub, taken on by Shepherd Neame in 2017, for more than a decade, said:

“I’m from Maidstone; I know the clientele; I know the business in the town, we are just trying to push and push to make it the best environment for the people of Maidstone.”

The Bear in Faversham took the award for Tenanted Pub of the Year. Praised as an ‘all round proper pub’, it serves a quality range of Shepherd Neame beers, a varied home-cooked menu and organises regular themed nights and events.

Licensees Tim and Lacey Stowell started running the Faversham town centre pub five years ago. Lacey said:

“We have an amazing team and we couldn’t do it without them. We also get an enormous amount of support from Shepherd Neame.”

The award for Apprentice of the Year went to Andy Hawkes, General Manager at The Limes in Faversham, who was 52 when he joined the hospitality industry and started his apprenticeship last year. He said:

“I’ve just got three months to go in my apprenticeship now and I’ve learned so much. I’m overwhelmed to receive this – coming to Shepherd Neame was a great decision for me.”

The Best Food Offer was given to the Castle Inn, Bodiam, which has been run by licensees Wendy and James Mills for more than 20 years, with James working alongside Head Chef Bob Leeper in the kitchen. Judges were impressed by the team’s ability to offer an extensive menu, from traditional pub fare to restaurant-style dishes, while also retaining incredibly high levels of quality and service.

Chef of the Year went to Andy Proctor, who has been at The Marine Hotel in Tankerton for six and a half years – one of the busiest kitchens in the company’s estate and one of the most creative, with a particular focus on seafood due to the site’s coastal location.

“We are passionate about food and work really hard as a team to do what we do, every day, and it’s really cool to be recognised with this award,” he said.

Hannah Grantham of The Spitfire in Kings Hill was named Best Barperson of the Year. She is one of Shepherd Neame’s Service Champions, supporting team members at other sites to deliver the highest standards, and is popular with customers. She said:

“This award is really for my General Manager, Chris Peach, as he is amazing and without his support, I couldn’t do the job.”

A shoutout in this category also went to Jemima Woolnough of The Wharf in Dartford.

The Best Beer Offer was awarded to the team at The Parrot, Canterbury, which was praised for consistently high quality beer and an excellent selection of cask ale rotated frequently, tested daily and delivered with passion and love. General Manager Francis Williamson said: “I’ve worked for Shepherd Neame a long time and this is the award I’ve always wanted.”

The Best Wine Offer went to the team at The Duke of Cumberland, Whitstable, which has an extensive wine list, with a special focus on English still and sparkling wines, to complement its coastal food offer.

General Manager Tina Kennedy said:

“The English wines we serve are phenomenal and we get more compliments for them than anything. We undertake regular wine training as a team so that we can share our passion with customers, and also recommend wines to pair with food.”

The Customer Service Pub of the Year went to the Old Ivy House, London, which was praised for making customers and the team alike feeling valued. The pub aims to offer something for everyone, from jazz performances and live band karaoke to parent and baby pub quizzes, and also sponsors a local five-a-side football team.

Business partners who run the pub, Kate Davidson and Del Currie collected the award. Kate said: “We just try to make a pub that we’d go to ourselves.”

A shoutout also went to The Parrot in Canterbury in this category.

The Heart of the Community award went to The Oak on the Green in Bearsted, which aims to be at the centre of everything that happens in the village, from supporting local charities and football teams, to providing hampers for the elderly. The award was collected by General Manager Paul Stewart, who said:

“We have got a fantastic community, and they support the pub. We are the pub of the village, and we are incredibly proud of that.”

Turnaround Pub of the Year was named as the Carpenters Arms, Eastling, a tiny pub with a huge following since a trio of dedicated friends - Sarah Neaves, Madeleine Bioletti, and Mark Perkins – took it on last year.

The Lifetime Contribution award went to The Pepper Box, Ulcombe, which has been run by the same family for more than 60 years. The current licensee, Sophie Pemble, follows in the footsteps of her parents Sarah and Jeff Pemble, and grandparents Jack and Betty Wood who first came to the Pepper Box in 1958.

There were two awards for Outstanding Contribution. The first went to The Alma, Painters Forstal, which has been run by Clare and Richard Annand for the past 13 years, with help from their sons, and is a hive of activity with quiz nights, music and even a spot of bat and trap.

The other went to the Market Inn in Faversham, which has been run by David and Sue Pott for almost 20 years, and who are taking a well-earned retirement next month. A hub for local music, along with bat and trap in its huge beer garden, it will be taken on by Tim and Lacey from The Bear in Faversham.

Chief Executive Jonathan Neame said:

“Our industry has experienced a very challenging time in recent years, but I never cease to be amazed by the resilience, creativity and positivity of our dedicated team members and pub partners."

“These awards offer well-deserved recognition for our people, from those just starting out with us to those who have been part of our Shepherd Neame family for many years. We are proud that our pubs continue to be among the best in the country, and it is important to come together for this annual celebration of our achievements.”

Full list of winners:

Apprentice of the Year: Andy Hawkes – The Limes, Faversham: Andy Hawkes with Managing Director, Pubs, Jonathon Swaine.

Chef of the Year: Andy Proctor – The Marine Hotel, Tankerton: Andy Proctor with Managing Director, Pubs, Jonathon Swaine.

Best Bar Person: Hannah Grantham – The Spitfire, Kings Hill: Hannah Grantham with Managing Director, Pubs, Jonathon Swaine.

Best Beer Offer: The Parrot, Canterbury: General Manager Francis Williamson with Managing Director, Pubs, Jonathon Swaine.

Best Wine Offer: Duke of Cumberland, Whitstable: General Manager Tina Kennedy with Managing Director, Pubs, Jonathon Swaine.

Best Food Offer: Castle Inn, Bodiam: Licensees James and Wendy Mills with Director of Tenanted Pub Operations Greg Wallis.

Best Accommodation Offer: Castle Hotel, Eynsford: (l-r) Elizabeth Thompson and fiance Jacob Harper who run The Castle Hotel, Director of Tenanted Pub Operations Greg Wallis, Sharon and Gordon Thompson.

Heart of the Community: Oak on the Green, Bearsted: General Manager Paul Stewart with Managing Director, Pubs, Jonathon Swaine.

Outstanding Contribution: Alma, Painters Forstal: Licensee Clare Annand with her two sons and Chief Executive Jonathan Neame.

Outstanding Contribution: Market Inn, Faversham: Licensees David and Sue Pott with Chief Executive Jonathan Neame.

Turnaround Pub of the Year: Carpenters Arms, Eastling – not present at the ceremony

Lifetime Contribution: Pepper Box, Ulcombe – not present at the ceremony

Customer Service Pub of the Year: Old Ivy House, London: Licensees Kate Davidson and Del Currie with Director of Tenanted Pub Operations Greg Wallis.

Tenanted Pub of the Year: The Bear, Faversham: Licensees Lacey and Tim Stowell with Chief Executive Jonathan Neame.

Managed Pub of the Year: Market House, Maidstone: General Manager Matt Green with Chief Executive Jonathan Neame.

Shepherd Neame Pub of the Year: Abbey Hotel, Battle


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