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An independent North East pub chain has seen off competition from across the UK to scoop a top industry award.

Sonnet 43 Brew Pubs, part of the family-owned Tavistock Hospitality leisure company, won the Best Value Food Offer category at the prestigious Publican Awards 2017 this week (14 March).

The company’s portfolio of pubs comprises The Lambton Worm, Chester-le-Street; The White Lead, at Hebburn; The New Plough, Burnopfield and The Toronto Lodge, at Bishop Auckland, which celebrates its first birthday this month.

Each of the venues serves craft beers produced by the Sonnet 43 brewery, at Coxhoe and their chefs have created dishes which complement them.

This care and dedication to overall quality, along with innovative menus, strong food sales and an ‘excellent’ level of staff training were all key ingredients in Sonnet 43’s success.

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 and the award followed a stringent judging process which included site visits, mystery dining and a panel interview.

Operations director Jonathan Graham, who was presented with the award by TV presenter Jonathan Ross at a ceremony at London’s Battersea Evolution, said Sonnet 43’s victory in the category was particularly impressive given the strength of the other contenders.

“We were up against some of the industry’s biggest hitters; companies such as Stonegate Pub Company, which has 269 pubs, Sizzling Pub Company, which has 220 and 50 venue-strong 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.

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