Kim Bartmann is a triple-bottom-line restaurateur and professional instigator, launching eateries in re-imagined spaces since 1991. She’s been creating and producing events for an unmentionable amount of time; before they called it placemaking. She believes that well-prepared food made from ethically sourced, sustainably farmed ingredients, welcoming spaces, and creative events can bring people together, support neighborhoods and catalyze a city.
As CEO of Bartmann Group, she leads an ecosystem of innovative restaurants and all-are-welcome events that use creative energy to feed people and connect communities. Because Bartmann Group gives equal weight to people, planet, and profits, employees have access to healthcare and benefits; food is prepared with ingredients grown on the Bartmann Group organic farm or sourced from local producers and purveyors; spaces are built with an eye toward LEED specifications, and recycling and composting are standard practice.
Kim’s hospitality vision and leadership have been recognized locally and nationally. Twice she was a semi-finalist for the James Beard Foundation Restaurateur of the Year award. She was named to the Restaurant News Power List: Readers Pick 2018 & 2019, was a finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and, was a Twin Cities Business MN 100 people to know 2019. With a strong belief in giving back, in addition to support Bartmann Group provides Twin Cities nonprofit organizations, Kim served as President Emeritus of Women Chefs and Restaurateurs, founding member of the Taste the Waste project, and as an expert for the Deluxe Corporation Small Business Revolution project.
Outside of work and mentoring, she stays busy with house or garden projects, cooking for her friends and family, and spending time at the lake in northern Wisconsin. Her favorite question after “Who’s hungry?” is “What’s next?!”
Where did the idea for your career come from?
I’m actively managing about 8 places right now, and I’d say each brand is mash-up of what I was currently interested in, the place, and the given architecture. All are neighborhood eateries.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I wish I had a typical day! Some days I’m out and about visiting and meeting with community members, staff, or project partners. Other days I’m chained to the desk responding to emails and writing. Mostly a mixture of both. I try to always be home for dinner with my kids, unless we’re going out together.
How do you bring ideas to life?
It’s always felt like sheer force of will and manifestation—and that’s pre-TikTok. Honestly I just get caught up in a project, I have a very detailed clear vision in my head and I just need to get it out into the world. I’ve been very hands-on when it comes to design and building places. I built the bar at the Red Stag Supperclub, Minnesota’s first LEED certified restaurant. I’m actively involved in creative direction for our collateral, events, menus, FF & E—everything our guests can see and touch.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I started out with sustainability when it was called a ‘trend’—I’m very excited that now that it’s a requirement, and I am always excited to learn ways that we can do better.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Try to deal with things in the now. Be present, listen.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Take financial literacy seriously! And I already knew this one at a young age, but, entrepreneurs need to be told as loud as possible and as early as possible: ASK FOR HELP.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I’ve had that experience a lot with my ideas with concepts for places! Everyone I knew thought it was impossible for me to buy this old broken down bowling alley, Bryant Lake Bowl, put a theater in it, and make it into a cool restaurant with good wine & beer. That was 1993. Now its famous and there are modern chains of bowling alleys across the country. As for truisms, I think literally every single thing can be repurposed instead of thrown in the trash; this has caused some issues for me personally and professionally! With the restaurants, we’ve done a lot of work with zero-waste, and once even catered an agriculture innovation conference with food that would have been composted called ‘Taste the Waste’. It was all delicious!
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Relate all discussion, ideation and decisions back to the brand & the culture you want to create.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Being employee-centric first leads to guest-centric second, and growth will come of that practice. Engaged employees are everything in my business; no other strategies can compete.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Failure hasn’t happened to me just once– I’ve had many more than that; if I hadn’t I wouldn’t have gotten this far! It might seem like shopworn corporate speak at this point, but failures really are opportunities. My email tagline is a Japanese proverb: ‘fall seven times, stand up eight’. I believe it.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Open a highly curated department store, with all the usual products—kitchen gadgets, jewelry, clothes, tchotchkes, everything second hand or recycled from something else. Ok maybe the cosmetics need to be artisan-locally made. Call me when it’s open, I want to help you make it an international franchise!
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I did some holiday shopping in the small town where I went to high school; personally and professionally, I’m passionate about supporting small business.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Adobe InDesign, we use it for all of our menus. And of course everything else graphic design.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
‘The Making of a Democratic Economy’ by Marjorie Kelly and Ted Howard, of the Democracy Collaborative. Because we need to imagine a more just world, and this book shows one of the ways to get there.
What is your favorite quote?
Fall seven times, get up eight
- Entrepreneurs are more successful if they ask for help
- Financial literacy is important.
- Repurposing stuff is cool and can be profitable.
- Supporting small business is what you should do.
- Fall seven times, get up eight.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.