Independent Judging Process

Judging for all 20 award categories is completely independent from the organisation of the awards. An independent panel of judges will review all online submissions and score the entries under specific headings. Three questions are asked for EACH category and there are a maximum of ten points for each question. Entrants are encouraged to answer the questions succinctly. Do bear in mind that the judges may not be familiar with your particular business so provide as much relevant information as possible.

• All scores will be collated and ranked to provide a final short-list in every category

• All questions must be answered, scores will not be allocated for sections left unanswered

• Shortlisted businesses / individuals will undertake either an interview with an expert panel of judges and / or a mystery shopping visit *this will be dependent on the category entered

Please note that the judge’s decision is final and is bound by a strict confidentiality agreement and no correspondence will be entered into. In any instance where it is deemed that there may be a conflict of interest, the chair of the judging panel will declare an ‘exclusion’ for any specific judge.

All shortlisted finalists will be notified by email on Monday 26th March 2018

Key Dates

Awards open for entries: Thursday 25 th January 2018
Closing date: 12 midnight, Friday 16 th March 2018
Judging: Commences 17 th March onwards
Shortlist announced: Monday 26 th March 2018
Interviews for finalists: On dates: Thursday 5 th April through to Wednesday 11 th April inclusive

Shortlisted finalists will be announced on Monday 26th March and interviews for the following categories will take place in Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce Board room on the dates specified. The judging company will be in contact with each finalist directly to confirm a time on the relevant date. (NB. This is only for short-listed finalists).

Thursday 5th April: Best Company to Work for AND Best Creative Business

Friday 6th April: Best New Business AND Small Business Coach/Mentor of the Year

Monday 9th April: Best Tech Business AND Business Person of the Year

Tuesday 10th April: Social Enterprise of the Year AND Best Digital Business

Wednesday 11th April: Business Growth AND Involvement in the Community

Best Family Business AND Young Business Person (U30). Best Family Business will be split between Thursday 5 th & Friday 6 th April with Young Business Person spilt between Monday 9 th & Tuesday 10 th April.

Gala Awards Night:

Friday 27 th April 2018
Hosted by Pete Snodden & Sarah Travers
Venue: St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast
Cost: £95+vat / head
Dress Code: Black tie/formal



• Please read through each category to ensure that you are entering the most appropriate award for your business.

• Entries can be submitted between the dates Thursday 25th January through to midnight on Friday 16th March 2018. Late entries will not be accepted.

• To enter the Belfast Business Awards 2018 you MUST be a business based in the Belfast Council area with a head office or business premises in Belfast OR you must be a member of Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce. Entries from businesses outside of this criteria will NOT be accepted.

• Each entry will be submitted to an online, independent panel of judges. All scores are the collated and this will produce a short-list of entrants for each category.

• The short-listed finalists will be further judged by either an interview panel or mystery audit. The final outcomes of this stage of judging will determine the category winners.

• A copy of each of your award entries will be emailed back to you for your own records.

• Judging will commence as soon as the closing date has passed.

• Each entry will be submitted to an online, independent panel of judges. All scores are then collated and this will produce a shortlist of five entrants for each category.

• The five short-listed entrants will be further judged by either an interview panel or a mystery audit. The final outcomes of this stage of judging will determine the category winners.

• The winners will only be informed via formal announcement at the Gala night on Friday 27th April 2018 in St Anne’s Cathedral Belfast.

• It is anticipated that all short-listed finalists will be informed via email on Monday 26th March 2018


2018 Categories

1) Customer Service Excellence, Hospitality Sector

patterson electronics

This award is open to all hospitality businesses that are committed to offering the highest levels of customer care to each and every customer and who can demonstrate excellence in their customer service. CRITERIA: Entrants must be in the hospitality sector which can include, pubs, bars, hotels, restaurants, coffee shops.

Sponsor text:

Patterson Electronics Ltd, a locally owned, Belfast based, Company in the mobile communications industry for almost 50 years, are delighted to sponsor the Customer Service Excellence, Hospitality Sector category in the Belfast Business Awards 2018 along with our Partner, Hytera. We are proud of our long association with the Belfast business community and, in particular, our long relationship with Belfast Chamber of Trade & Commerce as the preferred supplier of the award winning Citysafe RADIOLINK™ and PUBLINK™ shopwatch systems which utilises Hytera infrastructure and radios. Our RADIOLINK™, PUBLINK™ and CENTRELINK™ shopwatch systems are the most widely adopted in Northern Ireland and have proved to be extremely successful in the fight against retail crime and anti-social behaviour. Our comprehensive mobile communications product portfolio contains solutions for every type of business to help improve efficiency and in turn Customer service, so it is fitting that we are sponsoring the Hospitality Sector Customer Service Excellence award as many local businesses in the hospitality sector use our Hytera two-way radio products to effectively communicate with staff, improving the service they provide. We would like to take this opportunity to wish all the entrants in the Customer Service Excellence, Hospitality Sector category good luck and look forward to presenting the award to the winning business at the Gala Awards Night.

2) Best New Business


Open to all businesses that have been founded or are new to Belfast since 1st November 2015. CRITERIA: Entrants will be asked to explain their business and to demonstrate how they have translated a great idea into a viable and successful business venture. They will also be asked to explain your plans for the future.

Sponsor text:

Hampton by Hilton Belfast is located in the heart of the city and will be the first Hampton by Hilton in Ireland.

Opening in the 2nd quarter of 2018, Hampton by Hilton is a focussed service hotel, offering guests a modern hotel providing the perfect base for business or leisure guests. The Hampton by Hilton brand offers free cooked breakfast for every guest, 24 hour food service, a contemporary lobby and well-appointed bedrooms featuring air-conditioning, stylish bathroom, guest safe, black-out curtains and Smart TV.

The lobby concept features provides zones, styled as the Welcome Zone, Work Zone,  Gathering Zone and the Hub, each designed to offer spaces that guests can use to relax, work or socialise in. Hampton by Hilton provides a fitness suite with a range of cardiovascular and conditioning equipment. Discounted secure car parking is available adjacent to the hotel and free Wi-Fi throughout.

This will be the newest edition to the property portfolio, of Andras Hotels Belfast’s largest hotel group who own and operate the hotel.

3) Customer Service Excellence, Independent Retailer

This category is specifically for those independently owned retail stores. Not a franchise and there will be less than three stores in Belfast. CRITERIA: Entrants must be able to provide information on how they go the extra mile for their customers and how they deliver excellent customer service which ensures return visits and repeat business.

Sponsor text:

Power NI is Northern Ireland’s number one energy supplier with over 35,000 business customers and hundreds more switching back. Alan Egner, Commercial Sales and Marketing Manager at Power NI, comments: “We’re delighted once again to support Belfast Chamber of Trade & Commerce and sponsor one of the Customer Service Awards at this year’s event.

Good customer service is essential for any business and it is something we pride ourselves in across our Power NI offices in Antrim, Belfast and Omagh. Power NI customers are assured of a friendly, local service and independent research released recently by the Consumer Council NI showed that last year Power NI received the lowest level of formal complaints of any other electricity supplier in NI, for the sixth year running!

We have a long-standing relationship with the Chamber and the Belfast Business Awards are one of the highlights in the Northern Ireland business calendar. Good luck to all entries and we look forward to a great evening.”

4) Best Marketing Initiative

red box

Open to all businesses who have delivered a unique marketing initiative which successfully promotes their businesses and impacts on turnover, growth and footfall. CRITERIA: Entrants must be able to explain the marketing concept, actions taken and provide examples of its results.

The marketing initiative must have taken place over the last year, with the start date of the activity/campaign being from 1st December 2016 through to 31st January 2018

Sponsor Text:
Red Box Media specialises in helping businesses and organisations with their media profile.

We train you to be your best in interviews on tv, radio and on line. We produce videos highlighting what you do, we produce TV commercials and we help you get on television and radio to get your message to a large audience. We have studios and training facilities in Belfast where we turn you into a confident media performer.

Red Box Media is delighted to sponsor the Best Marketing Initiative category and we wish all the nominees the best of luck.
Red Box Studios
173 University Street
Belfast BT7 1HR



This category is open to all businesses that provide a professional business service in Belfast. This could be, banking, legal, accountancy, HR, recruitment, PR, communications, training providers, strategic advice etc. CRITERIA: Entrants must be able to explain what their professional business service is and demonstrate their commitment to customer service excellence within their particular service provided.

Sponsor text:
CBRE are pleased to support the Belfast Business Awards and specifically, the Customer Service Excellence, Professional Business Services category.

CBRE is the market leading commercial real estate advisor in Northern Ireland, the UK, Europe and worldwide with an experienced team of experts providing strategic advice and execution for property investment, sales and leasing; tenant representation, corporate services; facilities, property and project management; appraisal and valuation; development services; energy and sustainability services, and research and consulting.


grant thornton

Open to all businesses which, since 1st December 2015, can demonstrate growth in a challenging business environment. This may be new markets, products or services. CRITERIA: Entrants must be able to explain how the growth of your business has impacted on it, be that with new staff, increased turnover or other. You will need to provide facts and figures as part of the answers to the online questions.

Sponsor text:
Grant Thornton is delighted to sponsor the ‘Business Growth’ category at the 2018 Belfast Business Awards. We work with dynamic businesses to help unlock their potential to grow. Grant Thornton is Ireland’s fastest growing professional services firm.

Grant Thornton Northern Ireland is part of the Grant Thornton Ireland partnership. We deliver solutions to all business challenges. Clients choose us because the breadth of financial and business services they need is available, delivered innovatively and always to the highest standards. The firm comprises over 1000 people operating from offices in Dublin, Belfast, Cork, Galway, Kildare, Limerick and Longford.


belfast city council

This award will recognise Belfast’s most dynamic and inspiring successful social enterprise. If your organisation strives for business excellence, contributes to society by bringing about economic, technological, social or environmental changes, then this category is for you. CRITERIA: Entrants must be able to clearly demonstrate how their social enterprise makes a positive impact on a community or the environment in which they operate.

Sponsor Text:

Belfast City Council is delighted to sponsor Best Social Enterprise / Cooperative Award. We’re proud of the great impact social enterprises and cooperatives are having in communities across the city every day. This award recognises that there’s a different way of doing business that can make a real and lasting impact on a community. Growing the economy is a key pillar of the community plan for the city, the Belfast Agenda. Part of the council’s role is to work locally to drive inclusive growth and tackle barriers to economic equality. We provide a full range of support for anyone looking to start or grow a business or looking for support into employment. Visit for more details.


mkb law

This category is open to all family owned and run businesses in Belfast. CRITERIA: Your business must be managed by family members and you must be able to demonstrate the involvement of at least two generations of family members who are currently working in the business.

Sponsor text:
MKB Law is an innovative and progressive law firm providing legal services to commercial and individual clients throughout Northern Ireland.

At MKB Law we strive to stand out from the crowd; our professional guidance and practical solutions, combined with our personal values and understanding, allows us to provide an unrivalled service to all of our clients.

We are delighted to be supporting the Belfast Business Awards and are proud to sponsor the category of ‘Best Family Business’ for 2018.


This award seeks to find those businesses which provide an excellent, supportive, inclusive, secure and nurturing environment for their employees. CRITERIA: Entrants will be asked to explain their HR policies and the benefits, support structure and other incentives that they provide for their key asset, their employees.

Sponsor text:
Bauer Media’s trio of radio stations – Cool FM, Downtown Radio and Downtown Country – are Northern Ireland’s most loved radio stations with a combined weekly reach of 697,000 adults. Put simply, this unrivalled local audience constitutes 46% of the adult population, making it the province’s leading broadcaster.

One of Europe’s largest independently owned media companies, Bauer Media has a rich history as a family-run business, managed by five generations of the Bauer family. Originally a small printing house, the company portfolio now includes 600 magazines, 400 digital products and over 50 radio and TV stations around the world.

We are both delighted and indeed proud, to once again, support the annual Belfast Business Awards 2018, and specifically, ‘the Best Business to Work For’.

At Bauer Media, we believe it’s vital to foster a culture that encourages our employees to thrive and grow. If you get that right, then you’ll do pretty well and be a great business to work for.


victoria square

Open to Belfast’s young entrepreneurs (30 years or under at 28th February 2018) who will have achieved commercial success in building their business or, who hold a strategic and influential position within an existing company. CRITERIA: Entrants must be able to demonstrate their business prowess and give examples of their successes to date and future plans.

Sponsor text:
In its tenth anniversary year, Victoria Square remains iconic as Belfast leading retail and leisure destination. A dedication to supporting and nurturing young talent is centric to achieving excellence across all areas of the business, ensuring we stay up to date, motivated and enthusiastic for our customers.

We are thrilled to be sponsoring this category and recognising the business leaders of tomorrow.


belfast one

This award will seek to reward a business premise design that is fit for purpose, exhibits all-round design and layout excellence and suits the needs and requirements of both staff and customers. CRITERIA: Entrants will need to explain the ethos behind the design and functionality of the premises, interpret the innovation of design, use of materials and colours. Shortlisted finalists will be visited by appointment to look at further aspects of the premises.

Sponsor text:
Belfast One Business Improvement District represents an exciting opportunity to promote, enhance and support Belfast City Centre and the businesses within it.  Belfast One was voted into being by businesses in October 2015, and the Company was declared open for business on 6th April 2016.  Since then the Belfast One team and Board of Directors have been working to deliver their ambitious plans for the City Centre.

Belfast One is delighted to be sponsoring the Best Business Premises Category at this year’s Belfast Business Awards.  As Belfast One represents a huge variety of sectors across the City Centre the company felt it was fitting to sponsor this category as it recognises the importance of creating an excellent working environment for employees.




Open to an individual within a business who is NOT the boss! Someone who plays an integral part and contributes to the success of the business; that valued employee who you can’t do without. CRITERIA: This must be an individual and they will not be the business owner. Entrants need to explain who this person is and succinctly communicate their contribution to business. Short-listed finalists will be interviewed by a panel of experts who will want to meet the individual face-to face.

Sponsor text
Lacuna Developments is one of Northern Ireland’s leading development and investment companies established in 1991.

Lacuna has grown steadily over the last two decades becoming involved in property development and investment throughout the UK. Lacuna has particular experience in the last few years in student accommodation and the residential sector with over £100m of development either in for planning or under construction in Belfast in 2018.

Lacuna Developments is delighted to sponsor the Employee of the Year category and we wish all the nominees the best of luck.


east belfast mission

This award acknowledges an individual or business that has an on relationship with the community through their voluntary contribution. CRITERIA: Entrants will be asked questions about how they are involved with their local community, what the benefits and impact of this activity for all parties involved and their strategy for ongoing involvement with the community.

Sponsor text:
East Belfast Mission, which is part of the Methodist Church in Ireland, initiated the Skainos Centre, a major regeneration project and the church’s fifth building on Belfast’s Newtownards Road. Our centre provides shared community space and a base for the Mission’s worship and outreach projects.

The Mission runs a wide range of community programmes that directly meet the needs of those in our community who suffer from; homelessness, unemployment, poor educational outcomes, poor mental health issues, addiction and the consequences of poverty.

To help fund the above work, East Belfast Mission operates three Social Economy Businesses; the Restore Furniture Store chain, Refresh Café, and Bright Sparks Day Care Nursery.


value cabs

Open to an individual within a Belfast business. The person will have played a significant role in the development and success of the business. They may also be influential or involved in the wider community or with civic duties. They may or may not be the owner of a business. CRITERIA: Entrants should be able to demonstrate how they have made a contribution to the wider business community. The winner will demonstrate energy, ambition, skill and vision.

Sponsor text:
With a fleet of almost 750 vehicles Value Cabs can provide you with a wide range of transportation services to suit your every need. From a Professional Taxi Service to Executive Vehicles, Tours, Multi-Seat Vehicles and Wedding Cars our aim is to provide the best customer service available. We are delighted to sponsor this award which specifically recognises the individual’s contribution to Business in Belfast over the past 12 months.



A creative business in Belfast might be a design house, radio / television, production etc. or you might be an artist, make-up, props for the film industry, fashion designer, music studio or something else entirely! CRITERIA: Your business must be able to demonstrate how it is ‘Creative’ and explain the impact and benefits to its clients and customers.

Sponsor text:
Destination CQ BID are extremely proud to be sponsors of the ‘Best Creative Business’ category at this year’s Belfast Business Awards.

The Cathedral Quarter, also known as the Creative and Cultural Quarter is Belfast’s most vibrant inner city neighbourhood and we at Destination CQ aim to offer innovative projects and initiatives to further develop and complement the area as a great destination for tourism, culture, innovation, and business.

We are fully committed to supporting creativity in all fields and are aware that these businesses and organisations are the backbone of the Cathedral Quarter and have a huge impact on our growing and vibrant city as a whole.  So we would like to wish all the entrants in the Best Creative Business category good luck and look forward to meeting all nominees at the Gala Awards Night.


exterion media

This is a business that exists purely in the digital marketplace, either as an online business or the provision and support of online and digital services to other businesses. CRITERIA: The business must be able to explain its position within the digital market and provide a clear description of it services and how this translates to a successful and sustainable business in Belfast.

Sponsor Text:
Exterion Media is a leading outdoor advertising company based in Belfast and with offices throughout the UK, Ireland and key European markets. At Exterion Media, we believe that digital has the power to drive greater engagement and meet consumers’ changing needs. Our investment in technology and data underpins our journey to become a digital media company powered by data. Through our exclusive franchise partnerships, we are busy innovating across our entire estate through investment in technology. This involves upgrading and expanding our digital assets and footprint, introducing new premium formats and improving on our already popular, classic products.

We are delighted to be sponsoring the Best Digital Business category at the 2018 Belfast Business Awards. We see it as an opportunity to celebrate the role digital plays in creating successful and sustainable businesses. We wish all the entrants the best of luck at this year’s ceremony.


age friendlyage friendly

CRITERIA: This category seeks to find and recognise those organisations and businesses that value a diverse workforce recognising capabilities and resources for people of every age, which anticipates ad responds flexibly to the needs of older people and which provides accessible information and respects diverse decisions and lifestyle choices of older people, promoting a positive view of ageing.

Sponsor text:
The city of Belfast is a member of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Global Network of Age-friendly Cities and Communities and Belfast Strategic Partnership (BSP) Age-friendly Belfast team launched its Age-friendly Belfast Charter in 2015 asking Belfast organisations and businesses  to sign up to help make it easier for older people to use services across the city. The charter outlines straightforward principles and actions to improve the accessibly and design of our city. A good mix of older and younger employees often makes the highest performing teams and learning from older staff is often the best way to develop younger employees.

We are thrilled to sponsor the age-friendly business award as part of the 2018 Belfast Business Awards for a second year. This award will highlight businesses that are doing well in their customer care for older people and in valuing an age diverse workforce. Older people tend to be loyal customers and if your business is age-friendly you can attract and keep customers within a large and expanding demographic.  You don’t need to have signed up to the Age-friendly Belfast Charter to apply, but we will be encouraging you to get involved.


Entrants will be asked to select if they are entering as (i) Eatery or (ii) Coffee shop and can only enter one option.

CRITERIA: Entrants in either sub category must be able to demonstrate how they support local producers, provide excellent and consistent customer service, innovative offerings in the food and beverage market and display excellent levels of house-keeping. Shortlisted finalists will undergo rigorous mystery visits over a number of weeks from the closing date onwards.

CastleCourt are delighted to once again be involved and support the Belfast Business Awards and specifically, the Best Eatery/Coffee Shop Award for 2018.

Sponsor text

CastleCourt has been a key part of the retail hub of Belfast for over 25 years and continues to play a vital role in driving the local economy.  CastleCourt boasts over 80 shops in the heart of the city and has evolved to fit the changing demands of consumers and continues to focus on customer service.

19) Small Business Coach / Mentor of the Year

belfast city council

This is a new category and has been designed to recognise the outstanding contribution that a business professional has made in helping a small business to thrive or grow. This person will have actively demonstrated how they’ve provided a fresh perspective to a business and offer their knowledge, advice and encouragement to someone with less experience. CRITERIA: The small business coach/mentor will be employed (or recently retired) in a professional business. The mentor must be able to demonstrate the amount of time given, the skills and knowledge imparted and the results and benefit to the mentee.

Sponsor Text:

Belfast City Council is pleased to sponsor Small Business Coach/Mentor of the year award which recognises the dedication of professionals that support our local businesess to excel, develop and grow. Growing the economy is a key pillar of the community plan for the city, the Belfast Agenda. Part of thecouncil’s role is to inspire innovation and growth across Belfast in order to increase the competitiveness of our city through the people and businesses within it. We provide a full range of support for anyone hoping to start or grow a business, or looking for support into employment. Visit for more details.

20) Best Technology based Business

A new category for 2018. We want to identify those technology based businesses who show innovation and entrepreneurship. We want to hear from engineers, researchers and those working in the knowledge economy. Businesses of the future that might change the world.

Sponsor text:
McCausland Light & Rankin Ltd, has been specialising in commercial insurance products for the Belfast business community for over 25 years. We believe that success depends on personal customer relationships. We therefore pride ourselves in providing a customer focused personal service to all our clients, big or small.

MLR is delighted to be sponsoring the Best Technology based business Category at this year’s Belfast Business Awards. As reliance on technology continues to increase, new exposures continue to emerge ranging from the content you put on your website to stored customer data. Awareness of the potential cyber exposures your company faces is essential to managing risk through proper cyber insurance cover.

21) Lifetime Achievement Award

This award is open to an individual and is not open for general entry but rather via letter of nomination to the Board of Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce.





All award categories must be entered via our online process. We have made this as simple as possible and all entrants will complete the same steps for every category. It is important to note that if you do not complete a section or leave it unanswered, no score can be allocated.

There are three questions per category and a maximum of ten points per question. You are encouraged to answer the questions succinctly and concisely but providing as much information to answer the question as possible. Please be aware that there is a maximum WORD COUNT of 400 words per question * Also, remember that the judges are unlikely to know your business so provide as much relevant information as possible.


Step 1

You’re already here on the website!

Step 2

Read through the categories and decide which categories you want to enter. Read and check the Terms & Conditions.

Step 3

Answer the three questions relevant to the category being entered and complete the online entry form. Submit your entry. NB. (1) You will then receive a copy of your submitted entry for your own records. (2) Maximum WORD COUNT is 400 words per question.

Step 4

All entries will be reviewed and judged via an online process and a shortlist created for each category. The shortlisted finalists will then either be Mystery shopped or you will be contacted to attend for an interview with a panel of experts. All shortlisted finalists will be notified *

Step 5

Winners will be announced at the Gala Awards on Friday 27 th April 2018 in St Anne’s Cathedral Belfast so contact Belfast Chamber of Trade & Commerce on 028 9033 1399 to buy your tickets. Tickets are priced at £95+vat and this includes a drinks reception, a fabulous meal, wine on the tables, celebrity hosts, award presentations, entertainment, DJ and late bar.

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