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11th April 2023

Award-winning pub company, Craft Union, celebrates 500th pub!

Multi-award-winning pub company, Craft Union, celebrated a significant milestone with its 500th pub opening in Leicester.

Known for providing a warm and welcoming ‘home from home’ since 2015, Craft Union pubs have become famous for putting quality pubs back in the heart of communities and have fast become an industry success story.

Boasting both high retention among loyal operators and thousands of regulars up and down the UK, Craft Union’s appeal is rooted in values of humour, community, diversity, and honesty.

From early origins within EI Group to impressive growth as a Stonegate company, Craft Union continues to set the standard of how an operator model can keep individuality at the heart of each pub that serves its community. The pub company’s philosophy is to ‘think big, act small’ while playing a vital role in its customer’s lives.

Standing shoulder to shoulder with operators is a big part of this, as Regional Managers are encouraged to nurture relationships with a relatively small group of pubs and operators under their wing.

The 500th site is the Royal Standard, Leicester – a pub run by different generations of the same family for decades, and one that flies the flag for Craft Union community values.

Operator, Chris Chappell said: “You feel really supported in helping your business to thrive, especially by your Regional Manager, who will sit down with you regularly and go through how you see the pub developing.”

Supporting and engaging with local communities has always been at the heart of Craft Union. This has been recognised by the Publican Awards, with Craft Union being shortlisted for Best Community Operator numerous times and winning the laurels for this category in 2020 and 2022.

Charity and community fundraising has also been a consistent cornerstone of Craft Union, with recent campaigns such as ‘Winter Warmth,’ which raised £8000 and donated 480 bags of warm essentials to senior citizens in pub communities. As part of ‘Love your Local,’ an impressive £60,000 was donated towards local grass roots community activities.  As well as supporting local charities, the Craft Union team will come together to run in the Rob Burrow Marathon in May, to raise money for Motor Neurone Disease Association – Stonegate’s Group charity.

Frazer Grimbleby, Operations Director, said: “There are so many reasons why Craft Union has received praise from the industry and its communities, not least because of the quality drinks offers, daily entertainment and supporting local teams. We also provide an unrivalled sports viewing experience and lead the way in community engagement.”

Nick Andrews, Managing Director of Stonegate said: “We do our utmost to support all involved with Craft Union to run a successful local business. Craft Union continues to grow, we look forward to bringing Craft Union to more local communities and welcoming more Operators to our Craft Union family.”

To find out more about Craft Union or to enquire about becoming a CU Operator, please see CU’s dedicated page here.



About Stonegate Group

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

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


  • 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)

For further information, please contact Tamsin Flower, Leisure PR,