The corner of Alton Road and 16th Street will soon be the beating heart of a rapidly expanding hospitality enterprise led by two local cousins seeking to answer one simple question: Where would locals go?
That driving question is behind the new properties slated to open in what could be renamed as the Menin corner. Menin Hospitality, an all-in-one service company led by cousins Keith Menin and Jared Galbut, already operates the popular Bodega Taqueria y Tequila, a mullet-style offering: taco bar in the front, speakeasy party bar in the back, and sandwich shop Halves & Wholes on 16th and Alton. Menin will operate Ricky’s, an arcade-themed bar next to Bodega, which was to open to the public on Friday; and, by the end of the year or in early 2017, it’ll also operate Firestone, a diner inside the 1939 Art Deco Firestone service station in that corner as well.
“We are creating this little circle, not closed for locals — it has an opening for tourists at well — but it’s kind of becoming a local hub,” said Menin, principal of Menin Hospitality.
Each new Menin opening, whether on Alton Road or elsewhere in Miami Beach — the company has also announced the opening of Bakehouse Brasserie, a French-inspired cafe with brunch and dinner menus, in the South of Fifth neighborhood — works around the concept of satiating locals’ needs.
The Menin and Galbut families have been on the Beach for nearly a century. Abraham and Bessie Galbut arrived on the barrier island in 1929, eventually owning a corner store with a restaurant and several retail outlets. Russell Galbut, a first cousin once removed to Keith and Jared, is managing partner at national real estate development company Crescent Heights, which is based in Miami.
Both co-founders of Menin Hospitality have been in the industry since they were kids, often working odd jobs painting the walls of the Gale Hotel on Collins Avenue or, for Menin, working the front desk or as a bellman at the now-Shelborne Wyndham Grand South Beach.
They started Menin Hospitality, then Menin Hotels, in 2009 with the renovation of an assisted-living facility into the 30-room boutique Sanctuary South Beach and have most recently expanded their hotel portfolio to full management of the Mondrian South Beach. Along the way, the cousins, both in their mid-30s, have added a collection of restaurants, bars and nightlife offerings to their rapidly growing portfolio.
“We are always thinking 18 to 36 months ahead,” said Galbut, who serves as managing principal.
In a transient town, Menin Hospitality caters to residents who live on the Beach year-round, like they do. They often look to open places they would like to go to, Menin said, and their taste seems to be indicative of what others are looking for, too. Each of their restaurants does between 100 and 150 deliveries a night.
“That’s like Domino’s,” Galbut said.
There is no slowdown in sight. Galbut predicts that their restaurant ventures could grow from 12 to 20 in the coming year. The company is also working on a substantial hotel project they haven’t yet released details on.
The Miami Herald sat down with Menin and Galbut at their sandwich shop Halves & Wholes late last month to discuss growing up in hospitality and paving a new vision for the future of Miami Beach.
Q. How has your upbringing in the hospitality industry seeped into some of the decisions you make today?
A. Menin: Growing up in hospitality had a huge impact on who we are today. From a young age we saw how a family business worked and we both learned the ins and the outs of working at a hotel. I worked every job possible at the Shelborne Miami Beach, our families spent summers there together and it’s where I fell in love with the hospitality industry.
Q. Talk about your evolution from hotels to adding food and beverage offerings. How is your diverse hospitality portfolio an asset? How is it a challenge?
A. Galbut: When we started Menin Hospitality, we had no intentions of bringing on food and beverage, but we quickly saw an opportunity to leave our mark on all aspects of the guest experience. We understand the market and by offering food and beverage, we have the ability of curating an entire vacation or night out for our patrons. Now guests that are staying at our hotels can fully immerse themselves in our brands by eating at our restaurants and drinking at our bars.
Menin: Our diverse portfolio allows customers to receive a different experience at each venue — you can go to Halves & Wholes for lunch, Mondrian for happy hour and Bodega for your night out. Once we open up our newest venues on Alton Road, people can come here every night of the week and do something new each time. The challenge in having a diverse portfolio is that with each project we unveil, we are faced with branding a new concept from the ground up that will resonate with our demographic and complement our other venues. We are constantly visiting our venues getting customer and employee feedback.
Q. How do you identify a need? What part of that comes from conversations in the local community?
A. Menin: It is important for us to bring something to life that fits in with its surroundings. Often times, it’s just a feeling. We can identify an area and talk about what energy is missing and then we work toward opening a place that we would want to go to with our friends and locals can enjoy.
Q. Miami Beach has always been a transient community, but travel trends now favor more authentic local experiences. Why did you feel it was important to cater to the local clientele and how is that spilling over into tourism as well?
A. Menin: It’s always important for us to create an out-of-the-box experience to stand out among our competition. One of the things that tourists are looking for is what’s trending through social media in the local community. Now when people travel to a destination, they want an authentic local experience that they can’t find at home. For example, at Bodega, we created a space that not only serves as a taqueria in the front that caters to foodies but we also opened up the speakeasy bar in the back that brings an alternative option to the typical nightlife scene on Miami Beach.
Q. You talk about keeping an energy at each of your properties, and that takes constant upkeep. What do you do when it becomes overwhelming; how do you remember your core mission?
A. Galbut: Communication is key for any business. Our biggest reason for success is that everyone at Menin Hospitality knows their role and we all listen to each other. We are a family business, and everyone that works with us is family. Most of our team has been with us since the start.
Q. How do you mitigate recent challenges in the tourism industry: Zika, increased hotel supply, softening of Brazil, the rise of the short-term rentals?
A. Menin: The benefit of having such a varied portfolio is that Menin Hospitality does not have to rely on only one facet of the market at a time. Many of our venues cater directly to the Miami residents and the business community. Currently we are focusing on getting ready to open our newest concepts and we continue to identify new growth opportunities and business ventures.
Q. What is your vision for Alton Road? How do your new projects there work toward that vision?
A. Galbut: Alton Road is the gatekeeper to South Beach with nearly 10,000 residents in the surrounding area; its centralized location has unlimited potential. As pioneers of the “Alton Road revival” we started by opening Bodega and we were blown away with its success. We recently opened Halves & Wholes across the street, further expanding our food capabilities and bringing the area a really great local sandwich shop. Next to open is Ricky’s, a venue that will offer unique programming, carnival-themed food, and a bar program featuring over 150 whiskies, craft cocktails, and local beers — it’s the perfect concept to be neighbors with Bodega.
Q. What excites you most about the future of your business and the future of the industry?
A. Galbut: In recent years, Miami has quickly become a new culinary hub. The emergence of our local chefs on the national scene has pushed Miami on to the next culinary level. We want to be directly part of this progression and our food and beverage concepts will continue to be innovative and local friendly. Watching this industry boom, and being an active part of it is very exciting for the future. On the hotel side, our concepts will continue to evolve and adapt to the traveler’s needs with more technology and more amenities with the goal of providing a fully integrated experience for all of our guests. Miami is our home and we plan to expand our company with new businesses here for many years to come.
Keith Menin and Jared Galbut
Job title: Menin is principal and co-founder of Menin Hospitality. Galbut is managing principal and co-founder of Menin Hospitality.
Age: Menin is 36; Galbut is 34
Experience: Menin began learning the fundamentals of hotel operations at the age of 15 working the front desk of Shelborne South Beach. After attending Cornell, Menin and his cousin, Galbut, formed Menin Hospitality when they acquired Sanctuary South Beach and later redeveloped Gale South Beach. Menin is on the advisory board for the Miami Beach Visitor and Convention Authority.
Galbut started his career in hospitality in Illinois to develop Raffaello Chicago, where he served as Chicago’s youngest general manager. Galbut launched Drumbar at Raffaello Chicago in 2012 and the speakeasy is still part of the Menin Hospitality portfolio. He and Menin formed Menin Hospitality in 2015.
Education: Menin attended the Cornell School of Hotel Administration. Galbut has a bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance from the University of Miami.
Personal: Menin is married to Evelyn Menin and enjoys traveling and boxing. Galbut is married to Stacey Galbut and has a 2-year-old son, Jonah. He is an avid bike rider and foodie.
Best-kept secret in Miami: Menin: The Japanese Market on 79th Street — so fresh, the best in town. Galbut: Royal Bavarian Schnitzel Haus, serving traditional German fare with an amazing outdoor biergarten.
About Menin Hospitality: Headquartered in Miami since 2005, Menin Hospitality’s collection spans South Florida and Chicago including upscale lodging, lifestyle restaurants and nightlife venues, as well as a division dedicated to independent projects focusing on art, culture and design. Menin Hospitality currently operates hotels Mondrian South Beach, Bentley South Beach, Gale South Beach, Kaskade South Beach, Sanctuary South Beach, and Raffaello Chicago; nightlife venues Drumbar Chicago and Radio Bar South Beach; and restaurants Piccolo, Halves & Wholes, Pizza Bar and Bodega Taqueria y Tequila. Ricky’s and Bakehouse Brasserie are set to open in 2016 with plans to expand in the U.S. and internationally in the future.