Dig Inn, a 10-restaurant chain based in New York City, is already a hit with healthy eaters. You’re bound to see crowds lined up to get salads, sandwiches, and market plates from here any given day of the week.
With an average check of $US10 and a focus on produce sourced from local farms, the chain aims to make simple, high-quality food available at an affordable price.
The brand has just announced a $US15 million Series C funding round led by Wexford Capital. Monogram Capital Partners, Riverwood Capital founder Michael Marks, and Law360 founder Magnus Hoglund also contributed to the round.
Dig Inn had previously raised $US6.5 million in earlier rounds of funding.
We caught up with Dig Inn founder and CEO Adam Eskin at the chain’s newest restaurant in New York City.
Dig Inn wasn't always known by its current name. In 2011, Eskin, a former private equity associate at Wexford Capital, officially started rebranding what was then called the Pump Energy Food, a five-store eatery that catered to a bodybuilding crowd. Eskin changed the name to Dig Inn and completely revamped the menu to focus on fresh, locally sourced produce.
We visited Dig Inn's 10th and newest location, which opened in the Nomad neighbourhood of Manhattan in November. Eskin says the chain plans to use the funding to open five new restaurants and hopes to eventually expand to new markets.
Eskin says Boston will most likely be home to Dig Inn's first restaurant outside of New York City. 'I think we just want to be measured and responsible with how we think about sites and locations,' he said. 'As we find sites that work, along with the folks trained in a position to run those restaurants, we'll open them.'
The line is so long, in fact, that it stretches all the way down the stairs and into the dining area. Dig Inn's 10 New York City restaurants feed more than 1,000 customers a week, each paying an average check of $10.
Dig Inn, as well as other growing chains like Sweetgreen, has benefited from American consumers' push toward healthier eating. 'Vegetables are becoming more mainstream,' Eskin said. 'If we could make a bigger percentage of the plate be plant-based food, we all win.'
Digg Inn is perhaps best known for its market plates, which feature two side dishes and a protein on a bed of grains. This one has flank steak, brown rice, roasted sweet potatoes, and Brussels sprouts with spicy sunflower seeds.
Proteins -- charred chicken, spicy meatballs, grilled salmon, flank steak, or veggies -- are kept warm in large pots.
For a healthier alternative, you could opt to have your protein served on a bed of greens rather than grains. Most locations now also have fresh salads and sandwiches made with ciabatta.
Dig Inn partners with small-scale farms in Upstate New York, Long Island, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania to bring the freshest produce to its stores. Though some staple items, like Brussels sprouts and kale, are in high demand all year, Eskin says the menu is wholly determined by what is in season at any given time. 'I think when you say, 'OK, here's the menu,' and then try to figure out how to get the produce, that's when you start making tradeoffs,' Eskin said. 'That's just not how we're trying to run our business.'
Kale, tofu salad, and broccoli with roasted garlic and almonds are among the nutritious side dishes. Dig Inn served an astounding 174,708 pounds of kale and 134,680 pounds of broccoli in 2014.
That's a lot of veggies. According to Eskin, the amount of kale in this refrigerator would last roughly a day and a half.
Dig Inn's recipes don't call for many ingredients; most are flavored with olive oil and one or two herbs. Once the produce is properly chopped and seasoned, it is stored in equally portioned cases to make sure the taste is replicated across servings.
This particular Dig Inn location has a very homey seating area downstairs, just on the opposite side of the food prep area, so that customers can see just how their food is being prepared.
Dig Inn is also working on building up the tech side of its business. Its new mobile app allows customers to place an order for pickup and delivery. 'This will help us learn more about how our customers are interacting with our food,' Eskin said. The chain has also partnered with LevelUp to bring mobile payments to the app.
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