Father and son team Brian, 60, and Dean Thorlby, 40, run Cavells in Sheffield and the High House in Rotherham. Here, they share with us their story of success from big renovations to strategic cocktail sales.
How have you turned the pubs around?
We took on Cavells in June 1990 but it was just a tunnel behind a shop. After four years, we were able to knock through to the high street and make a bigger pub – and Cavells was created. With the help of Enterprise we then refurbished it and decorated inside and out. We changed it completely.
We did the same at the High House which we’ve had for seven years. The downstairs used to be an Irish bar taking £60 a week, but it is now really lively during the week and is always buzzing at the weekend.
How have you achieved such great results?
Cavells has changed a lot over the years and it is now the kind of place where everyone feels welcome, whether in a group or on your own.
Our main focus is food, served between 8am and 7pm each day, and there is a strong interest in our breakfast offering. It’s a local in the middle of town, so at the weekend we get a lot of regulars.
The High House has two bars: upstairs is a traditional bar with a bit of music, while downstairs is a rather unique concept we call Fubar where we serve lots of cocktails and shots; this has become very popular.
How have you found it working as a father and son team?
We have worked together from day one, and it works perfectly, as Dean is in tune with what’s happening in Rotherham, and I have a good grasp of food so am well suited to Cavells. We have a meeting every morning to discuss what’s happening, but then we go our own ways; we complement each other well.
What are your top tips?
In the pub business you need a strong work ethic. You’ve got to know and understand your customers, listen and take feedback on board. Without your customers, you’re nothing.