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Blue Bell
“That broken foot was probably the best thing that happened to me.”

Michael was batting. The ball came through his defence and smashed his foot. He gallantly carried on, made 50, raised his bat, stopped for a drink - and then realised he’d broken his foot.

It didn’t just signal the end of his innings - it also signalled the end of his successful retail management career.

Michael was a regional manager at Thorntons, the confectioners. It was a good job, well-paid, interesting, with scope for further advancement.

“But as I recovered at home with my broken foot, I realised I didn’t really enjoy my job,” he says. “I realised I spent most of my working day in pointless meetings,” he sighs. “Meeting after meeting, all virtually saying the same thing."

“I thought I had a job for life there - and then, one day, I woke up and thought: ‘You know what, this is not really me’.” He sat back and looked at his options. What could he do? What did he like doing? His mind drifted back to the days when he worked at an Italian restaurant in Hinckley. 

I’d also been staying with my partner and her parents - they ran a pub in Hinckley. I saw what they were doing and I liked it. ‘I should be doing this,’ I thought to myself. And the more I thought that, the more I envisaged myself doing it.”

He took voluntary redundancy at Thorntons and sold his shares.It was money he would need to plough into his new venture. Michael did his homework. Pubs. Brewers. Reputations. After a lengthy trawl, he ended up at Everards and, after a few meetings with them, at The Bluebell Inn, in Desford.

“I knew the pub was coming up so before I did anything, I came here, I drank here, I ate here - they didn't really do food then - and I went to the other pubs in the village and I spoke to the locals.

“It’s a nice village, Desford. It’s an old pit village and I like that. I like its history. There are good people here and there’s some money in the village, too. “The pub was doing ok - but I could see it being more than it was.” Michael Cosgrove took charge of The Bluebell in December 2015. In January 2016, the pub was closed for refurbishment.

“We did it all in 10 days. New carpets, new fixtures, and fittings, new paint job. The kitchen was refurbished and reopened. I remember talking to the old landlord and saying: ‘Where do you think the potential is here?’ and he just pointed to the kitchens.” It was clear the pub would do well if it offered good quality, reasonably priced food.”

But the best way, always, with something like this, is to let your customers spread the message. Word of mouth is always the most trusted form of advertising.“It was about getting that message out into the community - that the pub had changed. It was about rebuilding the pub’s reputation.”

The pub has five lodging rooms on site. “We refurbished those too. It’s a bit unusual - it’s a bit nicer than a hotel, i think - and it’s reasonably priced, too.” Prices start at £65 per night, including breakfast the next day.  “It’s used mainly for wedding parties and business people. We had an UEFA delegation stay here when Leicester City were in the Champions League.

Blue Bell Inn Desford

"We get about a 50 per cent occupancy rate. It’s not bad - but I want that to be better in the future.” Michael looks round the pub. It’s hard to remember now what it looked like before the refurb. “It’s going well,” he says. “Better than I thought it would be. It’s just me, my two dogs, my mum - who I brought out of retirement - and a staff of 20, who are all brilliant, too.” 

"It’s going well,” he says. “Better than I thought it would be. It’s just me, my two dogs, my mum - who I brought out of retirement - and a staff of 20, who are all brilliant, too.”It’s good, he says. “That broken foot was probably the best thing that happened to me.”

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