Multi-Format Restaurant Group DIG Raises $65 Million to Fuel Growth

    Industry News | October 26, 2021

    DIG, the vegetable-centric, multi-format restaurant group announces its series F raise of $65 million for an ambitious growth plan coupled with progressive employee benefits and talent retention strategies. The round, supported by new and existing investors including EHI, the fund affiliated with Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group, Monogram Capital Partners, and Inherent Group, enables the re-opening of key locations temporarily closed due to COVID-19 and shifts growth to new markets that will bring its total restaurant count from 30 to 60 over the next three years.

    The center of DIG’s growth plans show competitive operational progress that works to ensure a healthy, agile, and happy workforce —an antidote to the largely tumultuous environment that encompasses the status quo of the hospitality industry in more ways than one. The so-called “great resignation” showed a record 1.3 million open jobs in hotels, bars and restaurants in April alone. A hedge against this pattern, DIG’s progress, plans and commitments led by CEO of DIG, Adam Eskin, are as follows: 

    • Developmental and sustainable career progression opportunities: Their newly developed Dig Academy at their teaching kitchen on Park Avenue South offers a 6-week program that all leaders currently go through. Over the next three years this program will evolve into an immersive education program with both analog and digital experiences including culinary and business classes with curriculum ranging from cooking basics and technical cooking (French basics/bread and pastry making), to business strategy, finance, leadership, and marketing tracks.

    • The 4 day workweek: The 4 day workweek model has been tested over the past 12 months in their Boston and Philadelphia restaurants whereby all full-time employees (salaried and hourly) have the option to work a compressed 4 day schedule with longer shifts and 3 days off. Beta insights show overwhelmingly positive impacts on team members’ ability to create balance, fulfill personal needs, and execute tasks more efficiently when on the job. DIG will continue to study the implications of this model in key markets with the goal of rolling out a broader 4 day workweek expansion.

    • Parental leave & support: As of May 2021, all salaried leaders (of any gender) from support team to chefs have been offered a 4 month fully-paid parental leave, according to Eskin a right but also a recognition of the importance of balance specifically in light of the challenges working parents continue to face during the pandemic. DIG is also in development with the city of New York about running a pilot program for a company-supported daycare.

    • Build out stage program for 232 Bleecker: With the goal of providing DIG restaurant team members continued learning & development pathways within the company, DIG’s full-service restaurant, 232 Bleecker will launch a two week rotation ("stage") that will allow employees to work across different stations including prep and live service work.

    • Wages & benefits: The company has instituted a weekly Covid bonus for all hourly workers. The budget adjustment has segued into permanent increases in base with the current average hourly wages in Boston are $17.84 and $18.85 in NYC. A gratitude equity bonus is offered to all full-time, salaried employees.

    • Growth & talent attraction: With their evolved benefits and retention strategies in place, Eskin is on the hunt to diligently fill 8 pivotal positions with diverse candidates, including Chief Operating Officer, Head of Engineering, Head of Marketing, over 20 Chef roles, and finally, several board seats, where he plans to recruit diverse leaders primarily from high growth consumer and technology companies. To this end, the team is working with Bleeker, a Public Benefit Corporation that partners with companies to provide leadership coaching and recruiting solutions, and Him for Her, a social impact venture that aims to accelerate diversity in the boardroom.

    • Scaling “from scratch” & doing good: Despite re-opening 13 locations since the start of the year, DIG will not compromise on its vegetable-forward menu that focuses on responsible sourcing and cooking “from scratch” in the true sense of the term. 

      • A Diverse Food System: Part of Dig’s mission to rebuild the food system is to create a diverse, equitable, and inclusive food system by prioritizing sourcing from historically underrepresented groups including BIPOC farmers, Queer farmers, Women farmers, and Beginning farmers. Over 17% of their food purchasing has been directed to suppliers from these groups (up ~12.5% from last year). In June 2021, DIG ran a 2x donation matching program to support Rocksteady Farm’s new Queer Farmers Apprenticeship program.

      • DIG Acres: Produce also comes from DIG’s own DIG Acres (DIG’s proprietary, 20-acre mixed vegetable farm in Chester, NY growing vegetables that supplement DIG’s robust local supply chain). DIG Acres runs a Farmer Apprenticeship program that provides land, equipment and mentorship to beginning farmers, which is projected to serve 80,000 homemade meals annually. 

      • DIGFeeds: DIG began DIGFeeds at the start of covid to help healthcare workers on the frontlines and to date has donated over 225k meals to hospitals, homeless shelters, and various community organizations. This program continues with a focus on supporting vulnerable communities including: Weekly Produce Boxes for Project Rousseau (an organization focused on supporting underprivileged youth and enabling them to pursue higher education + weekly food donations to Covenant House (an organization focused on the issues of youth homelessness).

      • “Cook for a Person” ethos: DIG’s menu, inspired by nourishment and sustainability (vs. by ego or gimmicks that drive press or social share), remains stronger than ever. This fall, guests can rely on food that strikes the balance of health and comfort. Seasonal dishes include Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Cashew Kale Caesar Salad,  Roasted Squash with pumpkin spice and fried sage, and classic preparations include their Jasper Hill Mac & Cheese made with a Jasper Hill three-cheese blend, Ithaca milk, whole-wheat pasta, and crispy panko bread crumbs. The menu, as always, is built with the goal of accommodating all lifestyles, dayparts, and occasions—from corporate lunches and weeknight family meals to special occasion spreads. 

     

    In a moment where the future of so many in the hospitality industry remains a looming question, the future is bright according to Eskin and lessons learned over the last several months have brought clarity and action against the company’s long standing priorities. In the near future we can expect kitchen technology, innovations and new format releases from DIG that aim to enable and empower people vs. replace them, including a pilot program launching at their 127 4th Avenue location later this fall that combines the best of their quick-service, full-service and delivery capabilities to provide an entirely new dining experience.

    News and information presented in this release has not been corroborated by QSR, Food News Media, or Journalistic, Inc.