Interview with South Florida Rising Star Restaurateur Andreas Schreiner of Pubbelly Restaurant Group

by Caroline Hatchett
April 2016

Caroline Hatchett: How did you get your start?
Andreas Schreiner:
My dad was a chef for Hilton International, and my mom owned a restaurant. They met and married and my father was transferred to Puerto Rico, where my brother and I were born. From an early age, I spent time in the kitchen and was enamored with hospitality. In the mid 80s, my parents opened their own restaurant, and I worked for them, peeling carrots before I could go out and play. I worked as commis, then busboy, then server and bartender. That was the introduction to my career, and I starting working for hotels—Marriott, Hyatt, Four Seasons, and a few independent companies before I decided to build Pubbelly with Jose and Sergio. It’s in my blood. 

CH: Who’s your mentor?
We talk amongst each other in the business. I talked to my father a lot. He’s my inspiration. Otherwise, I try to really learn on my own. If there’s a question, I try to do my research, make physical plans, connect with architects, and look at the different disciplines that make up our business rather than a peer. 

CH: How did you know you were ready to own and not just work for someone else?
We’ve had Pubbelly for six years, and seven or eight years ago, I knew I wanted to do something on my own. I knew I could do it better than the next guy, because I had \learned from my mistakes. I didn’t have any money or partners, though. It wasn’t until I was in Chicago opening the Elysian. I was doing food and beverage for that property, and I fell in love with the scene in Chicago: the neighborhoods, the people who loved to eat. Miami was very plain, nothing excited me. I got to a point in my career where I was doing marketing and finance meetings, so I decided to take the leap. I left that position and ran into Jose at a bar in Chicago. We met in the late 90s, but we hadn’t seen each other in years. A year later in Miami, I had developed a business plan, and I needed a culinary partner. I went to Jose, and he had the same idea. It clicked. We put all our eggs into the basket, and the rest is history. 

CH: What’s the breakdown of responsibility between the owners?
Jose does everything culinary and in kitchen organization and menu planning. I handle everything that is front of house and business related, finance, marketing—though we all get involved in marketing—and the beverage side. Sergio is the pastry guru and gives the restaurants the eye of design. He does the interiors and helps us oversee maintenance and operations of individual properties. 

CH: What restaurant groups do identify with?
We really like One Off Hospitality in Chicago: Blackbird,  Publican, Avec. etc. We love how casual the restaurants are, but they’re chef-driven. Lots of love went into it; we felt very comfortable. They’re value driven. Those were the restaurants I felt like I identified with.

CH: How has the restaurant landscape changed since you opened Pubbelly?
It’s changed leaps and bounds since I got here. Over the last 10 years, the transformation has taken a massive effect. There are 17 new restaurants opening every few months. The beach has become more complicated for people to get to, and with the growth of restaurants on the mainland, there are lots more opportunities and choices for the consumer without having to come to the beach. Now that there are more options, it’s harder for everybody on the beach to maintain clientele. Also, prices in real estate here have skyrocketed. Logistics are mind boggling, and basic rent prices are staggering. It’s almost not conducive for running a business. The better deals are over the bridge. But the neighborhoods that were purely artistic, like Wynwood, they’re almost un-purchasable. Once a neighborhood becomes hot, that’s it. It attracts a different type of businessman. 

CH: What did it cost you to open Pubbelly?

CH: What’s your five-year plan?
We opened Pubbelly Sushi in the Dominican Republic, and it’s going really well. It’s in a beautiful, luxury resort in a residential community. The owners of the property have been friends and clients. They approached us that they wanted to change the food scene, and bring in friends and new ideas, and it fit for us. We opened in December. We’ve grown so quickly in Miami. At the moment, we’re looking at taking Pubbelly Sushi to Puerto Rico, because it’s the brand we think would work in any market. It’s a neighborhood sushi market where quality is at the forefront, but it’s affordable. The next four stores will be for sushi. We always have our passion projects that we definitely want to take to New York. We want to have a Pubbelly there. We stay pretty active. Over the last three to four years, I’ve gotten an average of two e-mails per week with opportunities, sometimes more. They’re fully funded projects, nationally and internationally. It’s humbling to see how many people want the brand.

CH: How do you decide which projects to take on?
It all depends on timing and location. We’re very wary of taking on partners. We want to maintain the control and quality. We ask, “Can we? Is this something we want to do? How does it fit into the plan?” At this point, it’s all about strategy for us. What we do is for the growth of the business. We have Brickell opening up—that will be the third sushi location. Another hotel isn’t in our plans. We want to focus on freestanding locations. But I love to learn about new opportunities, and things we haven’t tackled. It’s a new facet of knowledge you can feed from.

CH: Do you see yourselves passing up an opportunity?
Not really. One thing about us, we’re not afraid to fail. We just want to try things that make sense, so we research as far as we can. 

CH: Have any of your restaurants failed?
PB Steak was a great learning experience on many fronts. It was a great concept, and successful. Unfortunately, the logistics of the property didn’t align with the business model. It wasn’t sustainable. Perhaps we should have made different choices from the beginning. But it was a time of growth, and we took a risk on the project and learned from our mistakes on the cost, operations, and negotiations side. Luckily, we were able to reorganize, and we have the property opening in a few weeks with some of the same staples. It pushed us off the beach and into the downtown market. We’re excited. We were in the worst period of the flooding; on top of the faulty building and issues with the city, there was too much to hold onto. We run our business on a zero-debt basis, and what we have comes in and out, and we didn’t want to throw money at something that wasn’t ours. We didn’t see the immediate fixes that the neighborhood had, so it gave us a thicker skin. It was hurtful, like giving up a child. But we learned important lessons.