Gaining industry recognition and winning awards

In an industry brimming with creative and hard-working people, and in a market where consumers are often spoilt for choice, standing out from the crowd can be a challenge. While there are of course countless ways to achieve a point of difference, winning or being shortlisted for an industry award and establishing an independent mark of quality and assurance are great ways to be recognised.

So why do ratings and awards matter? From a business point of view, they are an opportunity for increased awareness, building credibility, professional feedback, support and advice, as well as an independent mark of excellence. They attract customers, create sales, and are a great way of sustaining momentum, and reinforcing or refocusing your business’ direction.

Likewise, as an employer, they are a way of giving back to and supporting employees, allowing individuals and teams to shine, while enjoying the thrill of recognition from their peers. They can create something to aspire and work towards, creating clear, tangible goals for your team. They also help retain and attract existing and new talent which is so important when your team is the heart of your business.

Applying for awards can take up valuable time and resource, but in my experience the benefits far outweigh this. So, how do you go about achieving a quality rating or entering and being recognised by an industry award?

If you are new to the industry, it’s good to start at the beginning: read up on the quality standards of relevant ratings and awards, and, better still, engage with the awarding bodies before joining a scheme. Some awards can be entered directly, while others require a nomination from a third party. Get to know the ones that apply to your business and plan for the ones you want to go after.

Across our industry, there are numerous opportunities for recognition, from the Master Innholders Scholarships, the National Restaurant Awards to the Casual Dining Restaurant & Pub Awards, and the Royal Academy of Culinary Art’s Annual Awards of Excellence, to the AA’s Hospitality Awards and Rosette Awards.

Each award has its own criteria and entry methods, and it’s important to get to know what these are to use as a benchmark when working towards an award entry. At AA Hotels & Hospitality Services, for example, our Rosette Award scheme focuses on celebrating quality food, so key to this is using quality ingredients, preparing food with care, understanding and skill, and ultimately delivering on flavour. Our restaurant inspectors will also assess whether the dish delivers to the diner what was promised on the menu. Meanwhile the criteria for the AA Hospitality Awards, which include categories such as Chef of the Year, Restaurant of the Year, Pub of the Year, and the AA Food Service Award, varies by category.

Although it might seem counter-intuitive, it’s still vital not to let winning awards become your sole focus. In my experience it’s the businesses that refuse to let the prospect of a win cloud their focus of looking after their customers that are in fact far more likely to be the ones that achieve industry recognition.

Ultimately, whatever the style of your business, from neighbourhood restaurant to fine dining, it’s important to always play to your strengths and aim to be the best you can in your chosen marketplace. Regardless of the economic conditions, quality will always be high on the consumer – and the industry awards – agenda. Any hospitality organisation’s primary focus must always and forever be on the guest experience, staff wellbeing, and ensuring the business is profitable. And it is businesses that focus on this which tend to be the most successful when it comes to industry accolades.

by Simon Numphud, managing director at AA Hotel and Hospitality Services

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