'Continuity of staff' is testament to winning Northamptonshire Community Pub of the Year, boss says
The Red Lion at Thornby was crowned as Community Pub of the Year at the Carlsberg Food and Drink Awards in November. We spoke to the owner, Simon Cottle about what winning meant to his team.
Simon and Louise Cottle - the owners of the Red Lion in Thornby - met at university at Stoke-on-Trent while they were both doing degrees in business studies.
While travelling the world together after their graduation, the pair worked as front of house staff at fine dining restaurants across the French Alps learning the ropes before taking on their own venture together.
Nine years, a marriage and the pitter-patter of tiny feet later, the Red Lion at Thornby has been crowned this year as Northamptonshire Community Pub of the Year, which is a testament to the continuity of their staff, Simon said.
"I have been in the Red Lion for nine years... I have been there a long time," Simon added. "I think that helps. I'm also local, I grew up in Yelvertoft and went to school at Guilsborough and I can relate to people who use the pub, which is valuable.
"I have always said that the consistency of the staff and that ‘family feel’ when people walk through the door makes a community pub. People find that desirable. They know the level of service and how they are going to be treated.”
Simon and Louise know each person in the village by their first name and say other customers travel further to enjoy their pub.
Simon continued: "I wanted it to be a pub where people come into and what people see on the outside matches [what they expect] on the inside.
"We are a little bit more expensive but we do everything ourselves. I'm a believer in giving young chefs the opportunity to put food on the menu that they have thought of."
One of their previous chefs, who came to them from Northampton College, has now gone onto work at a Michelin Star restaurant in Birmingham after winning the Young Chef of the Year gong at the glitzy Carlsberg award night two years ago. It’s the same awards ceremony where Simon and Louise were proud to take the top spot for Community Pub of the Year in November.He added: "For me, I say you can go into any pub and get a beer and fish and chips but the experience we give to people coming into an old pub is added comfort and enjoyment. We always say 'we should meet our customers' expectations, plus one'.
"To go onto win this year is great. It's nice to be rewarded as we have been doing it for some time.
"It's good for the staff and the locals as well as they are the people who make it what it is. The award pats the staff on the back."