Arc Inspirations sees potential to open 20 to 30 sites in London for its Manahatta and BOX concepts, according to CEO Martin Wolstencroft.

It would mark the brand’s first venture into the capital, in an expansion push propped up by a recent £7m fundraise from banking partner, HSBC UK and shareholders including BGF.

Although yet to confirm a debut, Wolstencroft tells MCA that London will be the group’s biggest focus in building a pipeline of sites for next year, and is also eyeing Glasgow, Sheffield and Nottingham and Cardiff for new openings.

“I think confidence has grown, and it is the right time for us to go to London. Our business is about momentum and confidence, and the last five or six sites we’ve opened have been very successful. So, it’s a natural next step,” he explains.

The premium bar operator reported like-for-like sales at BOX were up 30% in December, Manahatta by 25%, and Banyan by 10%, while recent openings significantly exceeded forecasts, with Box Nottingham, Manahatta Sheffield, and Box Brindleyplace up 77%, 48%, and 25% respectively.

The group’s expansion strategy continues to focus on building geographical clusters, of its three brands; New York-inspired cocktail bar Manahatta, sports venue BOX and all-day bar and kitchen, Banyan.

“I would say there’s greater opportunity for Manahatta and BOX in London. There’s a lot of competitors for the different components of Banyan, and a lot of businesses nibbling at that all-day model,” Wolstencroft adds.

The CEO sees “huge opportunity” to grow in an environment where other operators may be slower on the expansion trail.

“With a lack of investment from other operators and consumer confidence growing, there are opportunities there, and I think we’re well positioned in terms of our brands.”

“We’re not a nightclub environment, where businesses that are underinvested are struggling. What the industry is about now, is delivering an elevated experience, exceeding customers’ expectations, and giving them that something special.”

Arc Inspirations

Although less likely to go out during the week, Wolstencroft says on a Saturday, customers are “spending bigger.”

“Saturday is really thriving and a fantastic amount of sales for Manahatta and BOX come through in the daytime, so what we’re good at is delivering that higher energy, bar experience, during the day.”

The positioning of all three brands as premium bars also matches current consumer sentiment.“The days have gone of customers just going out and just getting a pint; they want something different all the time.

“For example, Mannahatta delivers that in terms of excitement and glamour, and we’ve invested a lot into that. We’ve kept moving pace with how we can keep delivering that to customers.”

Wolstencroft describes his experienced team as having a “sixth sense about the industry.” “Now we’ve got to our 25th year, we’ve managed to navigate ourselves through many different crises. We understand the environment very well and have an acute understanding of where the market is right now and what we need to be doing.”

“We’re very tenacious, and we’re willing to try things, but at the same time, deliver that in efficient way because that’s the challenge for the industry - you’ve got to convert better than you’ve ever done before.”