Instead of oily and cholesterol-laden quesadillas and burritos, customers of Dig Inn are eating meals that consist of entrees such a lemon herb, seasonal sides such as roasted beets with toasted pumpkin seeds, chicken or wild salmon, Sicilian-roasted cauliflowers with chickpeas, kale and apple salad.
With these healthy dishes, the Dig Inn chain is winning hundreds of customers through their ‘farm-to-counter’ restaurants. Dig Inn hopes to get diners in the door, order from a glass-cased assembly line counter, and out in just 10 minutes carrying a $10 plate full of healthy organic food.
Dig Inn’s founder, Adam Eskin, is intent on changing the way New Yorkers eat in restaurants by serving them fresh food of high organic quality. And he is not forcing them to do it because his meals are tasty and appetizing.
As a proof of his intent to make Americans turn to healthy organic food, Eskin’s chain of restaurants all over New York City have served 225,000 pounds of sweet potatoes, 185,000 pounds of carrots, 142,000 Brussels sprouts, and 124,000 pounds of kale in 2013.
Eskin’s desire to fully concentrate on serving healthy organic foods can be seen in the way he designs the ambiance of his restaurant chain. When you enter a Dig Inn restaurant, you will have the feeling that you’re inside the prepared food section of Whole Foods, without the long grocery line.
At present, Dig Inn has nine locations in New York City. It expects to add another 16 to 20 other restaurants toward the end of next year. Dig Inn has already raised around $6.5 million from its first two rounds of venture capital funding. It now maintains 20 corporate employees and over 450 restaurant workers.
“We felt pretty passionate and compelled about having some culinary inspiration around the type of food we serve: not just a bison burger patty, for example, which was on the old menu, but a slow-cooked, braised that has been in the oven for eight hours, all sorts of vegetables and spices and herbs, so that when you eat it, you know that it’s great for you, you know that it came from a great place, but it’s actually delicious too,” says Eskin.
The first attempt of Eskin in this health food forage was a health chain tailored for gym rats. However, the venture was not successful. Eskin modified his strategy in 2011 by focusing on the attractive farm-to-table trend. However, instead of focusing on higher-price points, he thought of offering customers affordable healthy meals in a fast-food setting.
With his concept, he was able to offer customers healthy and carefully prepared meals consisting of fresh vegetables and whole grains for just $10 a-piece. The idea gained so much positive response from the public that Eskin is now aiming to add more Dig Inn locations in New York City.
The quality of Dig Inn’s meals is already excellent. Let us hope that as this restaurant chain grows, so will the variety and the quality of its meals.
Right now, health buffs are crazy about the superfood kale. Eskin is hoping that this current craze will persist. He has already established a direct business relationship with a kale farmer in upstate New York so that he can keep his meal prices down and his kale quality up.
A farmer growing the produce Eskin requires also welcomes this direct business relationship since it means a steady income for him. “It’s a kind of a win, win, win, win relationship,” says Eskin.
“We’re really excited about this phrase we developed, ‘farm to counter’,” adds Eskin. “The farm-to-table thing is ubiquitous now. I think people get it, but it doesn’t provide the access from a price point perspective that we’re trying to deliver,” Eskin says.
Dig Inn has a knack for the right timing. Healthy fast-casual restaurants are increasing in popularity nowadays both with diners and investors. A big investor, Steve Case, has just put in $22 million investment into Sweetgreen, a locally sourced salad chain.
Case astutely observed that there is “a shift in America’s taste for fast-casual dining to quick healthy dining options, particularly among young people.” This is the popular wave that Dig Inn is trying to take advantage of.
But as Dig Inn expands, the need for it to develop more and more direct relationships with suppliers, cutting off middle brokers, is really imperative. To fortify its relationship with its suppliers, it should also concern itself with equipping these suppliers with modern farming techniques that will ensure their steady stream of fresh farm supplies.
Eskin is on the right track because he realizes the importance of getting deeply involved in developing innovative supply-chain logistics. He knows that in order to change the status quo, he should be able to offer quality food steadily and at affordable prices.