The British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) has revamped its annual Licensee of the Year Awards, including a brand new prize, nomination process and a new mystery customer visit as part of the judging process.
The changes come as the 2016 contest opens for entries, in a bid to recognise the country's most talented licensees.
The new measures will include a European study tour for the first time, and the competitors are now able to register themselves or be nominated by a third party, such as a customer, colleague, brewery or fellow operator.
Also new for this year is the second stage of the entry process, which will now see a mystery customer visit the top 50 shortlisted publicans. The reports created will help decide if the licensee goes further in the competition, and they will also be shared with entrants as a means to help them improve.
The inspection will also consider the licensees' social media and website activity, and the judging process also considers the extent of each publican's business acumen and commitment to their employees' personal development.
Semi-finalists will then be visited by a panel of judges for one-to-one interviews, before six finalists will go through to the panel judging day in May 2016, receiving trophies and tickets to the BII's annual summer event on 7 June.
As well as the European study trip, the ultimate winner will also receive a free one-year subscription to BT Sport for their pub, and become a lifetime member of the BII.
Licensees of all levels of experience and from all sectors are invited to enter, with a particular focus on those who have demonstrated special innovation or novel ways to attract new customers and generate revenue.
Last year's winner was Keith Marsden, joint licensee of the Prince of Wales in Birmingham with his wife Diane, who said that winning was the "biggest accolade you can get", affirmed to customers and staff that the pub is great place to be, helped "create a real sense of pride", and really boosted staff morale.
Tim Hulme, BII chief executive, commented: "We hope that the changes to the competition process will really encourage our entrants to evaluate their venue, and in particular open their eyes to the multiple platforms with which they need to engage with their clientele, making the most of the digital world which transcends the walls of their pub."
The contest is sponsored by BT Sport, in association with its business packages.
Latest video from The Caterer