Small Kingdoms: The Pubbelly Boys and Their Culinary Empire in Miami

We are well-aware that being an operator with just one concept isn’t easy. Then it often takes years of hard work, blood, sweat and tears to expand to a culinary empire with several concepts. 

Foodable’s Small Kingdoms series highlights the restaurant groups, whether they are emerging or well-established. with multiple successful concepts in one specific area.

The Pubbelly Group is based in Miami and has three founding partners. Often referred to as the Pubbelly Boys, Chef José Mendín, Andreas Schriner, and Sergio Navarro– have a Small Kingdom of restaurants in South Florida that foodies, especially those that love pork, can’t get enough of.

Pubbelly Noodle Bar, Pubbelly Sushi, Pawn Broker, PB Ysla, and even the Food Republic, a restaurant which is on Norwegian Cruise Lines­– are all operated by the Pubbelly Boys.

We decided to sit down with Chef José Mendín to learn what it takes to create multiple thriving concepts and what advice he has for inspiring restaurateurs.

How did your culinary empire start? 

Mendín: What an honor to see my dream be referenced as an empire. Humbled, I wouldn't call what we’ve built an empire, rather a series of solid concepts that are brought to life by passionate people who work diligently to best serve our customers.

We started with Pubbelly back in 2010. At the time I was looking to bring a gastropub concept to Miami that would provide elevated cuisine in a relaxed and approachable setting. At the time, there was nothing like it.

How do each of your concepts differ?

Mendín: Everything we do is for the patronage of our customers. Each concept we come up with is created with the intent of providing our customers a unique experience and giving them what we feel their dining experiences might be lacking. 

As such, each concept is unique and offers different menus and experiences. 

Why do foodies love them?

Mendín: I think people love our concepts because every dish my team and I come up with is something that is approachable and comforting. I cook food that I like to eat. 

If I want to eat it twice (or sometimes three and four times) it goes on the menu, because I think my diners will feel the same. I try to cook food that people will remember.

What have been the top 3 challenges of building multiple concepts?

Mendín: There is really only one major challenge we face and I would have to say that it is staffing. 

Miami is a transient city, so people often only call the city “home” for an finite amount of time, and in general, it’s really hard to find people that are as passionate about that craft as you are. 

We always look to bring on team members that we feel confident will treat “our babies” as if they were his/her own. We have been very lucky thus far, and have found  and continue to find these types of people. 

Why have you chosen Miami for your concepts? 

Mendín: I moved to Miami in 1998 and was immediately drawn to the multicultural aspects that the city possesses. among many things. This made it a great place to create food. Diverse palates are great for culinary exploration. 

I’ve lived in Spain, London, Las Vegas, Chicago and New York and appreciate what each city taught me and had to offer, but I love it here and will never move. The warm weather and beautiful beaches also help!

Any future plans in the works for further expansion? New restaurants or new cities you plan to develop restaurants in?

Mendín: Yes, we are currently seeing a lot of growth with the company.

We have a big project in Miami Beach we are working on. I can’t share details, but more to come soon. 

Additionally, our Pubbelly Sushi concept will continue to expand domestically and internationally. We have plans for new locations in Dadeland and Aventura (South Florida locations), Mexico City and Puerto Rico. We are also in the planning stages of opening a new concept in Paris, which I’m really excited about!

What advice do you have for other restauranteurs?

Mendín: Really simple - don't let the bad days ruin all the good days to come.