When he started in the hospitality industry, Jared Galbut expected people would assume he simply leaned on his family’s reputation to acquire his management position. He was, after all, the nephew of Russell Galbut, who founded Crescent Heights — a prominent developer of high-rise housing and hotels in the Miami area.
Bent on proving he had the chops to lead despite his youth, Jared Galbut established a work ethic that has earned him widespread respect in the industry. Especially notable among his accolades: While still in his 20s, he successfully guided the Crescent Heights–run Raffaello Hotel in Chicago through the financial crisis of 2007–2008.
Today, Galbut is managing principal and co-founder of Miami-based Menin Hospitality, an operator of upscale hotels, restaurants and nightlife venues throughout South Florida and Chicago, which he runs alongside cousin and fellow co-founder, Keith Menin.
The two recently broke ground on the Gale Boutique Hotel & Residences Fort Lauderdale, expanding their brand beyond Miami into Broward County. The cousins plan to double their portfolio over the next three to five years with 15 to 20 new hotels.
Galbut recently spoke with Crain about his journey and about what he hopes to do in the not-too-distant future.
How did you get into the hospitality business?
Keith and I have always been in [that] business, really. Our family has actually been in the industry since the 1920s, when they started Al’s on Fifth Street and Washington Avenue [in Miami Beach]. It was a diner, a pharmacy, and you could get your driver’s license there. After that, throughout the years, we owned hotels in Miami Beach, and Keith and I grew up working at the Shelborne during the summers.
But I got my first real job working in the mailroom of the Hudson Hotel in New York when I was 18 years old, and it was the best summer ever; I had a ton of fun. That was my first introduction to the hospitality business outside of my family, and it sparked my interest in the industry a little more.
How did your career progress from there?
When I came back from New York and went to the University of Miami, Keith and I began developing a boutique hotel called the Sanctuary. That’s when I really started understanding how to build properties. From there, I went to Chicago to develop the Raffaello Hotel, where I was later asked to help out with operations. When the general manager left about a year or two later, I was asked to take over [in the same position]. I had only been involved in operations for a few years, but I took the job.
One month later, the entire world collapsed [because of the financial crisis].
I remember sitting there with my peers, who were all looking to me — a 25-year-old — for guidance on how to navigate through a financial crisis. While it was stressful, it developed me really quickly as an executive because I had to come up with inventive ways to get through something no one knew how to navigate. It made me stronger and helped me grow. Later, Keith and I started Menin Hospitality.
If you could go back in time and give your younger self some advice, what would it be?
Listen more. I didn’t do that enough when I was younger because I thought I knew it all. I would rush to say things or make opinions or judgments. But sometimes, you have to take a step back, listen and then think through how to make the best decisions. Today, I listen twice as much as I talk, and I’m better for it.
Sometimes, I’ll be in meetings where everyone is interrupting one another. At the end of the meeting, I’ll ask, “What did we accomplish?” And it isn’t a whole lot.
Do you think that your family’s reputation in the industry actually made it harder for people to take you seriously early on? Did people assume you were just riding your family’s coattails?
Definitely. It started when I was 18, and it was expected. But my uncle [Russell Galbut] gave me some great advice on how to deal with that: Keep your head down, work harder than they do, and earn their respect.
In 2004, I moved to Minneapolis for eight months to work on a major condo project, and it was a nightmare. It was a completely different world than the one I was used to, but I took it as a challenge and told myself, “I am going to work hard to make sure we do a great job on this and sell more units than ever.” We did, and people respected me because of it. People in our company and industry continue to respect me today because of my persistence and hard work.
Do you plan to expand Menin Hospitality?
We have become very strong at managing hotels and want to have more of them; we have looked at a number of hotels to own and operate and have had a lot of interest from developers. So, yes, we have some big expansion plans — especially here in South Florida — for our hotels.
We want to grow our food and beverage brand, too, and are focusing very hard on Bodega, one of our major brands we would like to expand throughout South Florida and eventually nationwide.
Our group has a lot of positive things in the queue.