Hartlepool businessman Jonathan Graham has been mixing with TV royalty.
The operations director with independent County Durham brewery Sonnet 43 came face-to-face with presenter Jonathan Ross when the firm scooped the Best Value Food Offer category at the prestigious Publican Awards 2017.
Jonathan Graham, who was presented with the award at a ceremony at London’s Battersea Evolution, said the firm’s victory in the category was particularly impressive given the strength of the other contenders.
The category was open to pub companies which average food sales of under £12.50 per head and for which food is a key part of total sales.
The award followed a stringent judging process which included site visits, mystery dining and a panel interview.
Sonnet 43 is part of the family-owned Tavistock Hospitality leisure company, and its portfolio of pubs comprises The Lambton Worm in Chester-le- Street; The White Lead at Hebburn; The New Plough in Burnopfield and The Toronto Lodge, at Bishop Auckland.
What made us stand out was our commitment to local produce and fresh food and to training, developing and retaining our chefs.Jonathan Graham
Each of the venues serves craft beers produced by the Sonnet 43 brewery, at Coxhoe and their chefs have created dishes which complement them.
“We were up against some of the industry’s biggest hitters; companies such as Stonegate Pub Company, Sizzling Pub Company and Pub People Company – so we were very much the little guy,” he said.
“What made us stand out was our commitment to local produce and fresh food and to training, developing and retaining our chefs.
“I also understand that the mystery diners give us glowing reports – which really matters as that reflects the customer experience.
“These are the biggest and most rigorous awards for the entire pub company sector and this year they are celebrating their 25th anniversary so it was a very special event and we are delighted to have brought an award home to the North East.”
Along with Sonnet 43, Tavistock Hospitality operates a portfolio of pubs, bars and hotels, including the recently refurbished The Roker Hotel at Sunderland, which is also home to the Poetic License distillery and bar.