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28th November 2023

And the winners are… Craft Union Pub Company announce the winners of its Operator Awards 2023!

The award-winning Craft Union Pub Company held their Operator Awards for 2023 last week, celebrating all of the hard work carried out by its Operators, and crowned the winners of nine diverse categories.

The categories and winners included:

Outstanding Pub of the Year – Winner: Krystle Morgan, Woodcutter Leigh-on-Sea

Best Community Pub Operator – Winner: Chris Farman, Royal Oak Radcliffe

Safety Award – Winner: Christina McKay and John Curran, Market Inn Huntingdon

Best Newcomer – Winner: Paul Bennett, Top Odd Wyke

Best Turnaround – Winner: Rhys Jones and Katie Cooper, New Inn Bridlington

Best Gaming Performance – Winner: Mark Arnold, Gate Inn Sutton Coldfield

Best Sports Performance – Winner: Anthea Turner, Havering Well Romford

Best Investment – Winner: Nick Smith, Lowther Newcastle Upon Tyne

Best Profit and Sales Growth – Winner: Catherine Bulford, Phoenix Rainham

The awards, now in their eighth year recognise the incredible work carried out by Operators and highlight their dedication and devotion to putting their pubs at the heart of their local communities. The best of the best, chosen from each pub across the whole Craft Union estate were shortlisted into a range of categories, from sales and growth to sports performance, with the awards focusing across all diverse areas of the business.

The shortlisted finalists were all invited to a celebratory awards ceremony hosted by Director of Craft Union, Frazer Grimbleby and Director of Group Transitions, Carol Roderickson, who were also on hand to announce the winners.

Frazer said: “I felt immensely proud to have hosted the Craft Union awards evening for our Operators, who do so much to serve their communities. This wonderful occasion was an opportunity for us to come together to celebrate and recognise the best of the best. Reward and recognition has always been, and will continue to be, a key part of the very special Craft Union culture of which I am so proud.”

One of the biggest awards up for grabs on the evening was the ‘Outstanding Pub of the Year Award’, which was awarded to Krystle Morgan, Operator of the Woodcutter Leigh-on-Sea, who not only won the coveted title but has also won a trip to Vegas!

Krystle said “I was so surprised, but absolutely delighted and honoured to win Outstanding Pub of the Year. To be recognised by the Craft Union community means so much to me, as myself and the team work so hard to make our pub the best social spot for our local community.”

Craft Union Pub Company are continuing to grow their estate, launching its 500th site earlier this year, the Royal Standard in Leicester, and is now comprised of 559 sites! The team at Craft Union is committed to working with their Operators to maintain the role its pubs play in customers’ lives and always ensure they are offering a great experience to guests across all Craft Union sites.



About Stonegate Group

Stonegate Group is the largest pub company in the UK.  Its portfolio is comprised of over 4,500 sites, split across managed, operator led and leased and tenanted businesses.

The managed pubs division, which employs over 16,000 people, is split into Branded and Traditional pubs, bars and venues. Branded is comprised of: Slug & Lettuce, Popworld, Be At One and the Venues division. Traditional (unbranded) pubs are made up of: Proper Pubs, Pub & Dining and Social Pub & Kitchen.

The leased and tenanted estate, Stonegate Pub Partners, is made up of over 3,000 diverse sites whilst operator led Craft Union is currently made up of over 500 community pubs.


  • Great British Pub Awards – Stonegate Group Pub Partners’ Pub of the Year, Best Pub to Watch Sport, Community Hero
  • BII’s National Innovation in Training Awards (NITAs): HR Manager of the Year (Jemelle Bish), Best Apprenticeship Training Programme (ATOP)
  • Publican Awards – Best Community Operator (Craft Union Pub Company)


  • Licensed Trade Charity Awards   raising awareness through fundraising
  • Great British Pub Awards – Stonegate Group Pub Partners’ Pub of the Year, Best Pub to Watch Sport
  • MCA Retailers’ Retailer Awards – The Hero Award (Suzanne Baker)



  • Great British Pub Awards – Feeding the Community, Community Mindfulness & Ei Publican Partnerships Pub of the Year
  • REBA Employee Wellbeing Awards – Best New Wellbeing Strategy (5000+ staff)
  • Publican Awards – Best Pub Employer (501+ employees)
  • Publican Awards – Best Community Operator (Craft Union Pub Company)



  • BII’s National Innovation in Training Awards (NITAs): HR Manager of the Year, Lee Woolley (2019); Best Managed Company for Training; Lifetime Achievement Award for Chairman, Ian Payne (2016)
  • CGA Insight Hero and Icon Awards (two awards): Icon Award   Ian Payne MBE, Business Leader, Simon Longbottom (2019)
  • UK Hospitality’s Dusk ‘til Dawn Late Night Awards (two awards) – Icon Award (Ian Payne MBE), Best Marketing and Promotions Award (2019);  Best Service & Team (2018)
  • Great British Pub Awards – Best LGBTQ+ Pub (2019); Best LGBTQ+ and Best Sports Pub (2018); Best Pub Garden, Best Entertainment and Best Sports Pub (2017); Best Sports Pub (2016);
  • BII Scotland Awards   Best Operator for Training (2019)
  • Retailers’ Retailer of the Year (two awards): Lifetime Achievement Award, Ian Payne MBE;  Investor of the Year   TDR Capital (2019); Investor of the Year: TDR Capital (2017)
  • Menu Innovation & Development Awards (MIDAS) (two awards): Best Menu, Premium High Street Pub: Slug & Lettuce; Best Menu, Town & City Pub: Walkabout (2019);  Premium High Street Pub: Town Pub & Kitchen (2017); Best New Concept:  Missoula, Montana Bar & Grill (2014); City and Bar Dining: Slug and Lettuce (2013)
  • Publican Awards (five awards): Best Community Pub Operator, Best Pub Employer (501+ employees), Best Managed Pub Company (51+ sites), Best Drinks Offer, Business Leader of the Year   Chief Executive, Simon Longbottom (2019); Best Late Night Operator (2018); Best Managed Pub Company; Best Late Night Operator, plus highly commended   Best Employer 501+ employees (2017);  Business Leader of the Year, Chairman Ian Payne (2014); Best Pub Employer 51+ sites (2013)
  • British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA)   Chairman’s Award (2018)
  • Licensed Trade Charity: Outstanding Corporate Contribution Award (2018)
  • APPBG PUBAID Corporate Charity Fundraiser Award (2018)
  • Scottish Training Federation: Best Large Employer  (2016)
  • HR Excellence Awards: Best Learning and Development Strategy (2016)
  • HR Distinction Awards: Innovation for Digital & Social Media (2016); People Development (2015); Innovative Use of Technology (2014)

Contact: Georgia Mackey,

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