Keith Menin on Building His Company, His Favorite Miami Spots, and What’s Next

Keith Menin
 Keith Menin

Hospitality entrepreneur Keith Menin knows his way around the best restaurants, nightlife, and hotels. As co-founder and principal of Menin Hospitality, Menin manages some of the hottest spots in South Florida and Chicago, including the Mondrian South Beach, Raffaello Chicago, and Pizza Bar South Beach, among many others.

Menin’s history in the hospitality industry goes way back: His family has been in the industry in South Florida since the 1920’s, and he grew up in and around hotels after his family bought the Shelborne Hotel on Miami Beach. So being in this industry has been a passion for Menin and a big part of his life.

That’s why Menin has put time and effort to build his company and expand the presence in South Florida and beyond. Since establishing Menin Hospitality in 2005, the company has evolved into a number of different areas and businesses.

“We’ve evolved to be not just a hotel management company, rather more of a 360-degree entrepreneurial hospitality company,” Menin told Men’s Journal. “A company where we do different deals in the hospitality space such as buy and/or lease hotels in addition to conceptualizing, building, designing, marketing & operating our own unique restaurant, bar & lounge and hotel concepts. We’ve also grown to be a food & beverage solution and today, in addition to having our own F&B infrastructure, we have strategic partnerships with groups such as LDV Hospitality.”

In 2019, Menin is working on expanding the company’s presence in Florida with the opening of Gale Fort Lauderdale Beach, a hotel and residential property, as well as expanding the Bodega Taqueria y Tequila with new locations.

Menin spoke with us about his career, his history in the industry, how he trains, what’s next for his company, and much more.

How did you get started in the hospitality industry?

I have deep family roots embedded in South Florida’s hotel industry since the 1920’s so hospitality has always been in my blood. In 1981, when I was as child, my family bought the Shelborne Hotel on Miami Beach. So as a kid, I grew up in the hotel – we’d have big family dinners there and we’d spend the holidays there – I was always there. When I was 12 or 13 year’s old, I told my Uncle Russell that I wanted to learn the hotel business. So, my Uncle Russell, who’s the co-founder of Crescent Heights, one of the nation’s largest developers and marketers of high-rise, multifamily housing and hotels, took me under his wing and taught me the ins and outs of the business. Starting at 16 years old, I started working every summer at the Shelborne and throughout the next several years, I worked at the front desk, in housekeeping and as a bellman – all of which really taught me how to cater to the needs of the hotel guests. In 2001, after graduating from the hospitality school at Cornell University, I returned back to Miami and eventually opened up my first hotel.

What was your first hotel?

My family owned what was then called an ALF, which was an assisted living facility. It was a 30-room building that had a courtyard in the middle – think Melrose Place. It was during that time where there was a major change of persona on Miami Beach – specifically Ocean Drive – where younger people were moving in and the elderly were moving out so I convinced my family to move those 30 beds to another facility home and to let me design, build and construct my first hotel so at 24 or 25 years old, I opened the Sanctuary Hotel South Beach. I raised all the capital, designed the logo, did the architecture, interior design, construction and all the operational side of opening a hotel such as hiring the personnel. With the opening of my first hotel, I also opened my first restaurant (located in the Sanctuary) with veteran Italian restaurateur Tom Billante called Sugo. We also had a really cool rooftop bar which we operated. Looking back, it was really an incredible experience to have what was really one of the first boutique properties in the area that offered that cool boutique hotel vibe and environment.

What’s it like being in business with your cousin, Jared Galbut?

It’s really great. Jared and I are opposites in what we do – he’s more of the management, operations kind of guy and I’m more of the entrepreneurial, marketing & networking kind of guy where I’m always out and about doing my thing. I think that synergy really works. Whereas if we were doing the same things, we would likely clash, so fortunately, we both enjoy different aspects of the business. Working with family has been an awesome experience.

What does it take to make it in the hospitality industry today?

I think today in the hospitality industry, it’s really about what you want – what your goal is. For us, what makes us keep going is always learning & advancing with new technologies, trying to always find great new deals and always being selective and smart about what deals we do.

You have some of the most recognized hotels and F&B venues in both South Florida and in Chicago. Why those markets?

South Florida is our home – our family has been here since 1917 – it’s our backyard. We really like the South Florida energy and vibe and it’s easy for us to navigate. Chicago is a city that I’ve always loved personally and there was a phenomenal opportunity for us, so we took it (Menin Hospitality operates and manages the Raffaello hotel and Drumbar cocktail bar in Chicago).

You own hotspot Bodega which is known for great tacos, tequila and late-night fun. What are your favorite tequilas?

I am one of the biggest tequila drinkers & connoisseurs and I’m very passionate about the spirit. In fact, the bar at my house only has tequila. I probably have over 40 different tequila brands with around 20 of which are rare and not readily available for people to get. I’ve very passionate about tequila think it’s the perfect spirit for “the moment.” When I’m in Aspen or New York City having dinner, I love Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia which is a great dark tequila. If I’m out at night time running around, 1942 is always a great drink to have. I also love simple tequila – there’s one called Tequila Fortaleza which in inexpensive but has a real tequila bite. With tequila, they mix a lot of things with it – caramel, vanilla and a lot of other ingredients – which most of the world likes and gravitates to. I really like a little more of a raw agave taste when I can really taste the tequila so for that reason, I like a widespread of them.

Who are some of the most famous people who have come to Bodgea?

We’ve had everyone from Michael B. Jordan, Joe Jonas, Jamie Foxx, Bobby Flay, Kylie Jenner & Travis Scott, LeBron James, Niall Horan, Dwyane Wade & Gabrielle Union, Brody Jenner, Diplo and Adriana Lima, to name a few.

Considering you are born and bred in Miami, where are your favorite places to go and favorite things to do in the city?

Miami is one of those cities where there’s so many different things to do. With the year-round incredible weather we have in Miami, I try to be on the water with my boat every weekend. My wife Evelyn and I often boat to this authentic Cuban restaurant called Boater’s Grill in Key Biscayne inside No Name Harbor. We love hopping in our Moke and going to Mandolin Aegean Bistro for incredible Greek food. Every Sunday night, you can always find us at Lucali eating pizza and at least once a week having lunch at Casa Tua Cucina.

What are your hobbies?

My wife Evelyn and I buy Mediterranean houses in amazing locations and renovate them to be great modern home that we either keep or friends buy them. Evelyn does the interiors and I do the construction – it’s a fun hobby that we really enjoy doing together. Another hobby I enjoy – especially since my brain is thinking about work 24/7 – is going to spas to relax my mind and decompress – taking a dip in the cold plunge, sitting in the sauna. Highly recommend the Spa at the Fisher Island Club. However, my favorite thing to do is spend time with my new little family – my wife and I welcomed twin baby girls in February of this year, and it has been the most amazing experience of our lives.

What are some ways you train to stay in shape with your busy schedule? How many days a week do you work out? What benefits do you think it gives you in business?

A couple days a week I go for a run on the Venetian Causeway, some days I’ll take a Sweat 440 and a few times a month, I box with Dino Spencer at 5th Street Gym. Just this week, I purchased the RadRover Electric Fat Bike so I’m excited to take those out and bike on the beach. Working out (in addition to going to the spa) really gives me the time I need to think. As I said, business is on my mind 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. When I’m outside running and biking – I see the palm trees, I see the water – it’s just overall a good vibe for me to de-connect.

What’s on the horizon for Menin Hospitality?

Later this year, we will be expanding the Gale brand & experience to Fort Lauderdale with the opening of Gale Fort Lauderdale Beach, a hotel & residential property where we will also have a beautiful restaurant in partnership with LDV Hospitality and an incredible rooftop pool, bar & lounge area. We’re also focusing on the expansion of Bodega in South Florida and are looking at few locations now.