SPECIAL REPORT: Michael Jordan making his mark in meat

by Bryan Salvage
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CHICAGO — For millions of Americans, the name Michael Jordan conjures up images of arguably the greatest professional basketball player ever to play the game. But what many may not know is that Mr. Jordan is also a successful businessman off the court.

There are currently five restaurants in the Michael Jordan Restaurant Group: Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse, 23 Sport Café and Sol Toro in the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut; 160 Blue in Chicago; and Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse in New York. He also oversees Chicago-based Michael Jordan Signature Steaks, an e-commerce business at www.michaeljordansteaks.com.

"The original version of the Web site launched in November ’07 and the current ‘remodeled’ version launched in October ’08," Benjamin Davis, the business’ administrator, told MEATPOULTRY.com.

Michael Jordan Signature Steaks is really an offshoot of Michael Jordan’s Restaurant Group, he added. "This business came about from restaurant customers inquiring about the sauces and steak recipes. The sauces have all been made by our chef and they are unique. Sauces made by the company include a basic steak sauce, a wing sauce and a barbecue sauce, among other signature sauces.

"The Delmonico sauce is closely associated with Mr. Jordan himself because that’s his favorite steak," Mr. Davis said. "He loves a Rib eye steak with a nice Delmonico sauce. The company also offers marinades, including tequila lime and chipotle. After receiving those inquiries, we thought we would try to make Prime steaks with white table cloth restaurant standards available to everyone. E-commerce seemed to be the way to reach the most people."

When asked if Mr. Jordan has hand’s-on experience in the meat industry, Mr. Davis answers, "No, but he’s a real steak-and-potatoes type of guy. And he had a history of eating a steak for lunch before playing a game later that same evening."

Regarding the Michael Jordan Signature Steaks business, Mr. Jordan has hired professionals who are specialists in various areas — ranging from creating a restaurant concept to the chefs to the people who supply the beef to those who create the sauces from the recipes and on up into steak production.

Michael Jordan Signature Steaks offers approximately 30 different cuts. "Initially, we started with just a Prime line, steaks that come from just the top 2% of beef produced in America," Mr. Davis said. "Although it was successful, we also wanted to expand that business because of the higher costs associated with offering only Prime beef."

As a result, the company now offers Certified Angus Beef and some less expensive new cuts such as the Flat Iron Steak. "We also offer some meat that can be best used as an ingredient for fajitas," Mr. Davis said. "Now we offer not just steaks for grilling, but also meat that can be incorporated into a dish."

Steaks in the Michael Jordan Signature Steaks line include Filet Mignon, Porterhouse, Rib eye, Rib, Sirloin, Strip Steak and T-Bones in various cut sizes and quantities per package. "The steaks are cut to order and we have created different lines ranging from the incredibly huge 38-ounce Porterhouse down to the 6-ounce filet," Mr. Davis said. "There are various sizes in each cut ranging from the Rib eye to N.Y. strip to the Bone-In Cowboy or Kansas City Strip."

Products are priced from less than $50 to more that $200.

When asked what points of difference Michael Jordan Signature Steaks have over the competition, Mr. Davis answers, "The signature sauces and quality of our Prime cuts set us apart."

Steak products are vacuum-packaged and shipped flash-frozen. Although the company does not offer pork, lamb or poultry at this time, it did offer Baby Back Ribs at one time, Mr. Davis added. "We’re looking at new versions of that product to reintroduce," he said.

Beef offerings are going to Jordan restaurants, Mr. Davis said, and sold through the-e-commerce web site [www.michaeljordansteaks.com] "This makes them available to anyone," he added. "As far as the e-commerce site goes, it’s a retail destination, but we’re also open to doing business with the foodservice market with both our steaks and sauces."

Distribution is currently national, but the company is investigating going global. "We have a lot of interest coming [from throughout the world]," he added. "In fact, we just received a call yesterday from Australia. We’re exploring going international; it’s one of our projects."

Looking to the future, Mr. Davis tells MEATPOULTRY.com, "One of our goals is to get to a point where we can provide any product that is desired by the consumer that would help them create an elegant dinner at home...down to a simple back-yard grilling situation including side dishes, appetizers and eventually desserts."

One question begged asking....what is it like working with Michael Jordan? Mr. Davis answers, "We all know he is a gifted athlete, but he remains a very down-to-Earth human being. His earnest interest in his business is to provide something for everyone.

"He was definitely focused and wanted to be the best basketball player he could be on the court," he added. "This desire has since translated to becoming the best in this business and to provide something special.... to give something back to consumers."

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