Why Allbirds Is Running Its Shoe Stores Like Restaurants

Allbirds founder Joey Zwillinger is operating his store like a restaurant.

What does that mean exactly? Well, the San Francisco-based eco-friendly brand — which just opened it’s second store in NYC’s Soho neighborhood last month — is taking cues from the restaurant and quick service industry on how they run things.

Zwillinger revealed to FN at the Fashion Tech Forum in L.A. on Oct. 6 that Allbirds is “servicing customers with the inventory in front of them,” in an immersive experience, as opposed to an employee grabbing your size from the back.

“We have a bartender around the inventory; we have hostesses, bar backs, all of these analogies to create a better experience for shoe buying. We’re interested in pushing that model forward, ” he added.

Allbirds wall display
Allbirds wall display in New York store.
CREDIT: Courtesy of brand
Allbirds’ sporty women’s wool runner.
CREDIT: Courtesy of brand

Beyond that, the renewable merino wool sneaker startup’s co-founder opened up about using sustainable materials and how he taps into his background as an engineer.

“I’m an engineer. That’s why we use the materials in the shoe and things that have never been used in shoes before.We’re looking at what the problems are, ask customers how it could be better, put that in an engineer’s mind and in a creative shell, and deliver a great experience,” he said.

“Our focus is redefining comfort because of highly sustainable materials that have been ignored. It’s always a secondary consideration.”

The direct-to-consumer brand launched in 2016. After gaining a cult-like following, Allbirds launched its first brick-and-mortar outpost in San Francisco in April.

Next up for the brand, new shoe styles. Currently product offerings are tight, with slip-ons and wool runners among the styles. “It’s not just silhouettes for us, but we’ll come out with different materials for different use occasions with an incredible renewable material. Next year is about silhouettes and materials.”

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