One of the UK’s great institutions was celebrated this week, with the announcement of the winner of the award for Britain’s Best Cafe of 2016, which was decided by the voting of thousands of cafe-goers around the country.
At a lunch in the City of London the Super Sausage Cafe of Potterspury, near Milton Keynes, won the inaugural award, sponsored by SIG Roofing, having received the greatest number of votes from the 25,000 that had been cast over the past few months.
The search for the winner began with an invite to the 11,000 cafes and tea rooms around the UK to enter the awards. From the 500 cafes that then took part voting was undertaken by their customers. From these a total of 14 regional winners were announced and from this the overall supreme champion cafe was crowned.
The regional winners comprised a varied mix of outlets – from the Balkenna Tea Room in South Scotland, to the iSmooth Community Cafe in South Wales, and The Cookhouse in Yorkshire. They straddled a whole mix of cafe types but what united them was their family-owned independence.
This was certainly the case with the Super Sausage Cafe where Chris Murray and wife Gail, along with son Simon, have been running the business since buying it in 2009. Chis says the success of the cafe is down to the number of people that it can count as regulars.
“The awards have helped us clarify that we have a nucleus of 1,500 people who use the cafe at least every two weeks. In week one of the competition we got 900 votes from the 2,500 people who came through the door of the cafe,” says Murray.
What attracted them was the food and the level of friendly service from the employees who serve a high volume of customers. The busiest week saw 2,400 people served during the regular opening hours of 7am to 3pm at the 52 cover-site (this extends by another 50 outside covers in the summer months).
Having had an earlier career as a chef and then as a supplier of equipment to some of the UK’s finest restaurants Murray has a particularly strong focus on the quality of the ingredients used. For instance, he sources his sausages from Tom Hickson of Smithfield Market.
“Winning this award is all about the food.I was a chef for 20 years and recognised that turning cafe food into good food is hard if you want to maintain quality standards (at the competitive prices people expect). We are all about quality ingredients,” he explains.
He has also learnt that people want to be served the country’s traditional, no-nonsense, dishes in cafes: “We tried doing mussels and other poncey food but people want proper bangers and mash, and cottage pie etcetera. We’ve really become breakfast specialists.”
Glynn Davis, editor of Retail Insider