Arc Inspirations, established by Martin Wolstencroft and Chris Ure in 1999, opened its first bar, the Arc in Headingley, Leeds, in 2000. The business has since expanded to 15 bars in and around the city, including Banyan Bar & Kitchen this year in the old Post Office building. Here, Wolstencroft chats with The Morning Advertiser ahead of September’s event in the city about the benefits of operating in the northern quarter and what he thinks lies ahead for multi-site operators in Leeds.
What separates Leeds from other northern cities?
It’s how friendly the industry is and the hospitality from owner-operators. There are very strong individual operators in Leeds who are very passionate about the trade. They are very proud of what they do and are willing to spend time with their team. The warmth of the city, which you get in Leeds, is key and you don’t get that in Manchester. Also, the council has worked hard with local operators to pedestrianise streets so venues can expand outside.
Why did you pick Leeds to launch Arc?
You have to know the area to be able to set up a business here. I came to university here in 1988 so I know the area very well. My job before was looking at places up and down the country so I knew Leeds had a strong student area. There is a fantastic pull for the student population, who graduate and stay in Leeds afterwards. There is a thriving business community with great links to outer suburbs. People want to relax and enjoy themselves here. And in less than an hour, you can be in the countryside so it’s the best of both worlds.
What advice would you give to other operators looking to set up a site in Leeds?
Do your research into the location because Leeds has changed a lot in recent years and is moving fast. You might think something is a good idea at the moment, but in five years it might change. Do your best to understand what is going to affect you in the future. Experiential is what people want when they come here and you have to provide your customers with that – a great experience.
Are there any particular trends in the city?
There are a lot of great individual bartenders. Leeds has a lot of the best cocktail bartenders and operators. We are blessed with a lot of local, fantastic ingredients for cocktails and food. Two of our bartenders have gone on to work at the Savoy in London.
What do you think the future of Leeds is looking like for multi-site operators?
People are becoming more health conscious so you don’t see as many people going out after work on a Friday any more. Also, customers want offers all the time and ask for them, and they want something a bit different.