Introduction

The vast majority of CAMRA branches make a Pub of the Year (POTY) award. There are several strong campaigning and promotional reasons for doing so:

  • pubs need all the publicity that they can get and award announcements stimulate interest not only in the winning pub in particular, but also in pubs generally;
  • the media love competitions and, with the right press release and timing and can gain good publicity for the pub and the campaign;
  • it rewards excellence and, hopefully, inspires other pubs to achieve similar high standards;
  • it makes clear what we in CAMRA consider makes a great pub;
  • in most cases, the branch POTY will feed into the national POTY awards.

 

Pub Of The Year Co-ordinator

Any branch contest must be properly organised so it must be clear who is co-ordinating the competition. Who should administer the competition is the decision of the branch.

The person co-ordinating the competition should ensure that:-

  • timetables comply with to ensure that the result is available by the deadline;
  • those involved in the process are given adequate notice of what they need to do and by when; arrangements are made for the presentation and publicity is arranged for the result and/or presentation of the award. A formal presentation to the winning pub is an opportunity not to be lost, not least because it can create good publicity and be a great social occasion for members.

It should be noted that the co-ordinator does not have to do everything themselves. They can delegate some of the tasks mentioned, e.g. someone local to the pub might make arrangements for the presentation and the press officer may be in a better position to arrange for publicity.

 

Organising Your Pub Of The Year

Every branch is different and their Pub of the Year selection methods will differ to take this into account. The way that a small compact branch based around a town or city selects their winner will probably not work in larger branches who very often have big rural areas to cover.

Whatever method is chosen it needs to:-

  • be transparently fair and above board; 
  • be robust enough to stand up to close scrutiny;
  • be simple enough to avoid undue bureaucracy;
  • be capable of producing a pub which the branch genuinely feels worthy of reward;
  • enable as many branch members as possible to take part at some stage in the process.

A number of options can be used to select a branch Pub of the Year, or ideas can be picked from any of the suggestions below to develop a method that will suit your branch area.

 

Nominations

Any branch member can, by a certain date, nominate any pub to go into the contest. The winner is then selected either by a vote or they are judged against one another using either the national guidelines or locally developed criteria.

Problems obviously arise here if a large number of pubs are nominated, particularly if the pubs are being judged. To be fair, anyone doing the judging needs to have visited each of the pubs before delivering a verdict. In these situations producing a short list would be advisable.  (See Shortlisting)

Using this method to establish the initial list is certainly fair in giving every pub a chance. However, problems may occur in larger branches where a large number of pubs may be nominated for consideration.

 

Shortlisting

Once you have your initial list of pubs, if the list contains more than four or five pubs, it can make the voting or judging to find your winner cumbersome and time-consuming.

As with the rest of the competition, any method used to produce a shortlist needs to be transparent and robust enough to stand up to close scrutiny. Care should be taken to ensure that no pubs are excluded on questionable grounds.

A number of methods can be used for shortlisting:-

  • the branch committee could decide to shortlist on the basis of their own knowledge. If using this method the branch needs to ensure that any accusations of bias or prejudice against the Committee can stand up to close scrutiny.
  • using guidance from NBSS Scores which have been received. For example, selecting the ones with the best scores over a specified period of time;
  • a vote either by committee or branch members, with the ones receiving most votes being the ones considered in the final round of the branch competition.

Once the shortlist has been compiled a winner can be selected from the pubs chosen, either by a vote or judging them against one another using the national guidelines or locally-developed criteria.

 

Voting

This method of deciding your POTY involves asking all branch members to vote and the pub getting the most wins (e.g. by a majority or via single transferable votes). If using this method please take every effort to allow all those eligible to vote to do so, including those who for whatever reason are unable to take part in an electronic voting system.

 

Using GBG Votes

Some branches shortlist from those pubs getting the highest number of votes for inclusion in the Good Beer Guide (GBG). An obvious problem here is that the criteria for GBG selection (beer quality) and POTY selection (much wider) are (or should be) different so there is a likelihood that strong candidates will find themselves excluded. On the other hand, beer quality is the most important factor in the national criteria and good quality and good pubs generally go together. It's also a simple and open method of shortlisting.

 

Geographical Areas

Some branches split their branch into different areas and, effectively, a mini-contest is held in each one, using whatever method is felt best. The area winners are then judged against each other.

It should be noted that, if this method is used, the way of selecting the area winners still needs to be transparent and able to stand up to scrutiny.

This method helps to militate against geographical bias (which can easily happen in branch areas dominated by one town or city) but is obviously more complex and time-consuming.

 

Other Issues

Selecting Judges

Once the branch has a manageable number of pubs to select from they will need to select who carries out the judging. Options are:

  • anyone who volunteers; 
  • the whole Committee;
  • a chosen few (decided by the Committee).

If they choose to select judges some ways of doing so are:-

  • asking people who are "on the edge" of the Committee to do the surveying, partly as a way of avoiding accusations of bias. This also gives the branch the opportunity to engage more people in important branch activity.
  • Where possible selecting judges to visit the shortlisted pubs who do not drink regularly in them and are therefore less likely to have predispositions.

 

Postal Ballots

If Postal Ballots are used, either for shortlisting or deciding the final winner, it might be advisable to ask the branch auditor to oversee the counting.

 

Scoring/Ranking Systems

As previously mentioned, many branches use the national guidelines to judge their competition. Using these guidelines in some way should ensure a degree of consistency throughout the competition and also give the winner a better chance of progressing in the competition.

However, the method to be used is entirely up to branches and they can develop their own judging criteria or rely simply on the judges to rank the pubs in order of preference.

Whatever scoring system is used it must be transparent and able to stand up to close scrutiny.

 

Pubs of the Month or Season

Some branches choose Pubs of the Month or pub of the Season and their branch Pub of the Year is chosen from the winners of these awards.

There are strong arguments to say the more pub awards the better because they all generate positive publicity and help reward excellence. The obvious downside is that a lot of work is involved and not every branch has the resources or activation levels to be able to manage this.

The branch also needs to have fair and open selection criteria for these awards as well. But if you can do it, then it's an excellent campaigning opportunity.

 

Conclusions

The key message is that Pub of the Year contests, at whichever level, are a good thing and make an important contribution to promoting and campaigning for pubs.

How the decision on a winner is reached is down to each branch. Hopefully, the ideas in this document will provide some ideas in helping to find a method that will suit the branch. 

 

Useful Documents 

The Pub of the Year judging form can be found here

The Pub of the Year 2018 Guidelines can be found here