I had to chase up Martin. I know him personally but when Jamie Peacock mentioned him as one of his 3 ‘successful people’, I went to meet up with him. I wanted a vivid picture of the dynasty he has created across Leeds and now the North of England. He didn’t get anything handed to him on a plate, he just had a goal and backed himself.
Go back twenty years and you’ll find Martin Wolstencroft behind the bar at The Skyrack in Headingley and playing rugby league at Milford Marlins and Leeds Rhinos A-team.
Fast forward to today and as CEO of Arc Inspirations, he has just opened the group’s fifteenth site, Banyan Bar & Kitchen in Leeds City Square, to rapturous praise and record sales.
Martin’s career in the hospitality industry began at Headingley’s most popular pub before moving to Whitbread, where he became the youngest manager to first spearhead an annual £1million turnover for one of its sites.
With a desire to give a new lease of life to the Yorkshire bar and restaurant scene, Martin founded Arc Inspirations in 1999, with The Arc opening its doors in Headingley in 2000.
Since then, it has expanded to include nine unique brands of bars and restaurants in Leeds, Harrogate and York– as well as crossing the Lancashire border to Manchester – including The Pit, Manahatta and Banyan Bar & Kitchen.
“The first Banyan opened in Harrogate in 2006 as the first Arc Inspirations bar outside of Leeds as a stylish and genuine bar serving beautiful food and drink all day long.”, says Martin.
“Since then, Banyan has set its roots in York and Manchester and now 10 years later, we’re proud to be back on home turf with the launch of Banyan Bar & Kitchen in Leeds’ iconic Old Post Office building. It is undoubtedly one of the most impressive buildings that our city boasts. The Victorian building was designed and built by Sir Henry Tanner in 1896, and as the name suggests was Leeds’ largest post office and the city’s telephone exchange. It’s a striking building that catches people’s attention and we wanted to make sure we put our stamp on the site to offer our customers a superb all day dining and drinking experience.”
One thing is for sure when speaking to Martin, he is incredibly entrepreneurial. His passion for the industry and contagious enthusiasm is clear whatever aspect of Arc Inspirations you’re discussing; from his team and what’s on the menu, to the finer details such as chalkboards and table numbers.
I personally enjoy any branch of the Arc inspirations. After having tried the teriyaki salmon last week when I sat down at Banyan with Martin, I might have a new favourite.
I was intrigued to find out what drives Martin to keep coming up with new innovative establishments.
“Competition is fierce in Leeds, with new bars and restaurants opening every week, you’ve got to ensure you’re offering the very best across each part of the customer experience.”
“For Banyan Bar & Kitchen, this means delivering a genuinely stylish and beautiful experience when it comes to our food, drinks and venue itself.”
“Downstairs, Banyan Leeds is very similar to our Manchester and Harrogate bars; we took the learnings from these sites and implemented them in this historic building whilst remaining true to its heritage. Upstairs however, we wanted it to be a lot more exclusive, with a mature feel to give customers a change of pace – relaxed and sophisticated.”
“As for our food offering, we’ve got a team of highly skilled and passionate individuals that deliver outstanding dishes whatever the occasion. From our healthy and balanced Energiser Breakfast, to our popular seafood sharer, Portuguese half marinated chicken or crab and king prawn risotto – there’s something for all tastes whilst guaranteeing we’re delivering the most exciting and interesting flavours and dishes.”
I know Martin is a keen ‘crossfitter’ and has expressed his love for healthy food. Arc Inspirations offers a paleo menu at selected branches. Paleo is basically a caveman diet which is perfect for athletes or those looking to achieve a healthier diet. It avoids gluten, wheat and any man made products, which is something I aim to achieve in my diet.
“As for drinks, our cocktail menu is inspired by the travels of our mixologists and invites customers to enjoy three different types of creations. Stylishly beautiful cocktails that offer a feast for the eyes, a pleasure for the nose and a sensation for the taste buds such as the popular Berry Collins; genuine inspiration cocktails which pay homage to timeless classics; and our gin lover’s paradise Gin Copas, celebrating the current gin revival we’re experiencing in the UK.”
What’s more, Leeds educated Martin is committed to giving something back to the city in which he lives and works.
“We invested £1.4 million to transform the site over a 6 month refit project and as a result, created 60 new jobs in the city. For me, the opening of Banyan in Leeds is a natural progression of the Arc brand, and is a way of putting the Banyan stamp on the city, in its spiritual home if you like.”
As for Arc’s future, it’s safe to say Martin’s ambitions will see it go from strength to strength.
“Our focus for now is firmly on raising awareness of Banyan Bar & Kitchen in Leeds, however we are keeping our eye on some interesting opportunities to develop sites in Sheffield and Ilkley…so, watch this space!”
I asked Martin what he does most of the time when he’s not at an Arc Inspirations branch.
He replied, “You’ll probably find me enjoying a laugh with my family, a pint with friends and supporting you boys at Leeds Rhinos.”
To find out more about Arc Inspirations go to www.arcinspirations.com. To find out more about Banyan Bar & Kitchen in Leeds, like Banyan Leeds on Facebook or follow @BanyanLds on Twitter and Instagram.