Shibden Mill Inn – Simon Heaton Interview

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We asked Shibden Mill Inn’s Simon Heaton to give us an insight into the recent successes and award wins that the Inn has enjoyed.


Give us a quick round-up of the awards that Shibden Mill has won over the past few years:


Shibden Mill Inn has won a nice selection and been finalists in many more. Awards won include Yorkshire’s Favourite Pub, Yorkshire’s Pub of the Year, Les Routiers Inn of the Year, Best Freehouse and overall National Champion Great British Pub of the Year.


How do you decide which awards to enter?


It’s quite simple really, there are two main aspects to it; firstly, we look at the awards that we feel have the best fit with our business and, secondly, we consider the calibre of the organisation behind the awards – we ideally want to win accolades that endorse what we do and what we stand for as these will ultimately have the most benefit the business.


Are there some awards that you are nominated for by a 3rd party?


Yes, for example, we were awarded Les Routiers Inn of the Year in 2015 without us needing to submit an entry and then there are awards such as Welcome to Yorkshire’s annual Yorkshire’s Favourite Pub, which is part of the White Rose Awards programme and is decided by a public vote. 


How do you approach writing and submitting your award entries? Is it a team effort and how time consuming is it?


We take a pretty organised approach to compiling our entries – we believe that if we’re going to make the effort to enter then we need to give it as good a shot as possible. So, for each entry, we have one person in the team who oversees the whole process of collating all the information and writing it up, but other members of the team are also called upon for their input.


To get an entry just right does take considerable time and effort – and there’s no point rushing the process. Every entry has different requirements, but I’d say it probably takes a week to ten days to get everything as we’d like it. When possible, we also like to give ourselves enough lead time to be able to re-visit the content, discuss it and fine tune it – for us that’s all part of the process.


What’s the hardest part of doing the award submissions?


Making sure you haven’t missed anything – and making the final decision that it’s ready to send off!


What are the most important things to do/remember/include?


From our experience, I’d say that having concrete examples and evidence to be able to illustrate advancements made within the business, especially accountable improvements that have been brought about through a particular initiative or investment.


Do you have any top tips to give other innkeepers thinking about making award applications?


Keep it concise, make it informative and, if at all possible, write it yourself. Whilst you might want your PR or marketing people to check it over, I strongly believe that it’s only the owners that can really communicate their passion for and knowledge of the business. That, plus having measurable content – that’s something that we’ve really concentrated on and it’s brought us great results. Finally, I’d say that having really good quality images and making sure that the entry is professionally presented are both essential


What difference has winning awards made to Shibden Mill Inn – for the business and for the team?


From a business perspective, it has helped to put us firmly on the hospitality map and attracted lots of new customers which, in turn, has helped to grow the business exponentially over the past five years. For the team, it creates a huge sense of pride and achievement – the fact that they are part of something very special and their efforts have been recognised and rewarded by outside organisations. Award wins are also a valued addition to their CVs, which is great for staff retention. When we win an award it’s a huge morale boost for everyone in the team.


Do you think customers are influenced by awards and accolades?


Yes, absolutely. They are certainly attracted by them and then, when they visit, it’s up to all of us to make sure that their experience meets or exceeds their expectations, so that they then draw their own positive conclusions. Our hope is that they will then recommend us to their friends and family.


Is there one award that you are either most proud of or that was the most unexpected to win – and why?


We are hugely proud of all of the awards we’ve won, each was unexpected and a thrill to receive.


Is there an award that you would really like to win in the future?


I’m really keen for us to enter Shibden Mill into some of the newer Inn categories in various award schemes, such as PMA Inn of the Year, White Rose Inn of the Year and, ultimately, Visit England Inn of the Year.


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About Oliver Mizen 333 Articles
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