A New York City restaurant is getting attention recently, not from food lovers but from Air Jordan sneaker enthusiasts.
The Dirty French Restaurant in the Ludlow Hotel is also referred to as the Air Jordans restaurant, not because of displayed sneakers on racks or shelves – the crew members themselves wear different versions of Michael Jordan’s popular line of Nike footwear.
The Major Food Group company has developed a unique way to lure in and entertain customers. Company partner Jeff Zalaznick had the idea of allowing its front-of-house staff to wear classic Air Jordans at work.
“It was always a dream of mine to open a restaurant where the whole staff wore Jordans,” Zalaznick said.
He also added that the idea came naturally because the restaurant has an ’80s theme to it, which is the era where Jordan began designing shoes with the global shoe brand.
The first Air Jordan, AJ I, was released in 1984, and subsequent versions have been released and re-introduced decades later. Even after his NBA career ended, the 52-year-old basketball legend still earns $100 million a year from Nike and his other business partners.
Jordan shoe sales in particular reached $2.6 billion in the U.S. alone in 2014.
Because the sneakers are worth hundreds of dollars a pair, some even thousands of dollars, they are well maintained and “meticulously” cleaned, before and after each staff member’s shift.
However, there is a twist.
By the end of a staff member’s first year with Dirty French, he or she gets his or her own pair of Air Jordans to wear at work.
Zalaznick also said that the restaurant constantly needs to buy Air Jordans from resellers and other local shoe stores, especially since the restaurant staff is growing. There are 15 or more members – with varying foot sizes – working at any time.
Besides having the staff wear the shoes, this Air Jordans Restaurant also uses inspirational quotes from His Airness to boost the workers’ morale. In the kitchen, one will find a chalkboard filled with said quotes.
When asked how they felt or what they thought of wearing Air Jordans at work, some of the staff said that looking good and being comfortable gives them more motivation to work.
One staff member said that wearing Air Jordans is fun and makes them feel like they’re not really working.
The Air Jordans restaurant achieved a major feat this year when Jordan personally paid them a visit. Zalaznick said that he personally went to the restaurant to manage Jordan’s 10-man entourage.
“The place was electric,” he said, recounting the moment. “We’ve had presidents in our restaurants, and it was that same type of thing.”
When he asked Jordan what he thought of the restaurant, Jordan simply said that he loved the food, “but it’s got to be the shoes” that caught his attention.
Having an Air Jordan-wearing crew is hands-down the main attraction at the Dirty French bistro, but it is not the first time that the company has made an unconventional decision.
Zalaznick, together with Major Food Group co-founders Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi, also came up with the concept of letting their waiters at their Greenwich Village restaurant, Carbone, wear Zac Posen tuxedos while serving.
Meanwhile, the company’s Santina restaurant, under the High Line, boasts of staff that wear Rod Laver Adidas and Jack Purcells. Parm, a casual-style restaurant, has servers wearing Converse sneakers. There is also a newly-opened restaurant called Sadelle’s were the staff serve customers wearing Timberland shoes.
With the popularity of these eateries and the Air Jordans Restaurant, one wonders what popular footwear their workers will wear in their next business venture.
[Image via Instagram and Wikipedia]