How to create an award-winning sports concept

By Stuart Stone contact

- Last updated on GMT

Opening the Box: Arc Inspirations’ Martin Wolstencroft talks about creating a concept in the face of stigma surrounding sports bars
Opening the Box: Arc Inspirations’ Martin Wolstencroft talks about creating a concept in the face of stigma surrounding sports bars
Arc Inspirations’ CEO Martin Wolstencroft lifts the lid on 2019 Publican Award-winning concept The Box in Leeds.

Finding both a market niche and unresolved issues within the sector were integral to Arc Inspirations’ creation of 2019 Publican Award-winning concept​ The Box according to the company’s CEO Martin Wolstencroft. 

The Box, which Wolstencroft told MA500 Manchester has the potential to become Arc Inspirations’ first £1m net profit site was created with the company’s Banyan Bar and Manahatta brands in mind.

The venue, a £1.4m investment by Arc Inspirations​, took the total number of sites in the operator's portfolio to 18. 

“We wanted to keep growing business and making money,” Wolstencroft explained. “There are a lot of bars and restaurants that opened for the wrong reason... for ego. 

“In terms of our family of brands, we wanted a brand that would complement our existing brands and not compete with them.”

Tackling preconceptions

However, in adding a sport concept to Arc Inspirations’ existing brands, the operator faced the extra challenge of having to overcome a perception that sports venues are “crap bars” and “full of fellas drinking crap lager with a dusty TV in the corner”. 

Wolstencroft explained his company conducted extensive research of the market, assembling a project team and working with external partners to build a picture of what worked well for existing sports bars.

“You need someone who’s well travelled and who’s been to bar and restaurants around the world,” he said. “You need to research who the best consultants in those fields are.

“We brought in an all-female design team to avoid designing it as a lads piss-up sports bar and make sure we weren’t alienating any females.”

“We’re in no great rush to roll out. We are looking for sites of a minimum 4,000sq ft with presence on the high street and have turned down a lot of sites because they weren’t perceived to be female-friendly.”

Streamlined service

Arc Inspirations’ research found that when it came to sport bar concepts, serving a simple food and drink offer efficiently within a vibrant atmosphere was key.

“People really wanted burgers and pizzas, so we spent a lot of energy researching the best pizzas and burgers. A lot of time going around the markets in Shoreditch.”

Moreover, customer feedback encouraged Wolstencroft to build The Box’s drink offering around tank beer and batch cocktails on tap – both of which he’s described as having been “superb” successes. 

On top of this, Wolstencroft acknowledged that the increased emphasis on customer experience and providing activities encouraged him to install two full-length shuffleboard tables and dartboards and examine the role tech can play at The Box. “There’s been a boom in people wanting something to do while they’re eating and drinking,” he explained.

“How we move into the tech era is huge – giving customers facility to pre-book. We did look at ordering food and drink from tablet and from the table but the tech isn’t there yet.” 

Related topics: MA500 Business Club

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