DIG, the vegetable-centric, multi-format restaurant group announces its series F raise of $65 million, returning to growth with an industry-leading vision that puts people first. The round, supported by existing investors including EHI (the fund affiliated with Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group), Monogram Capital Partners, and Avalt, as well as new investors Kitchen Fund, Eminence Capital, LP, 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.
At the center of DIG’s growth plans is a people-centric strategy that will provide both industry-leading compensation and benefits, as well as a dedicated learning environment to support career development. Led by CEO Adam Eskin, the company has been building and implementing several programs to this end over the last 18 months, including:
- DIG Academy: With the goal of providing career development in hospitality, the company launched DIG Academy—a burgeoning training and culinary school—during the pandemic. Anchored by their teaching kitchen on Park Avenue South, DIG Academy offers a 6-week program that all chefs 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. The curriculum will range from cooking basics and technical cooking (French basics/bread and pastry making), to business strategy, finance, leadership, and marketing.
- Industry-leading Wages & Compensation: The company instituted a $2/hr bonus for all CITs (“Chefs-In-Training”, DIG’s term for its hourly teams) throughout the pandemic, which has now been converted to a permanent wage increase. Average hourly wages in New York and Boston are in excess of $18.50 and $17.75, respectively. All employees that stayed with the company through the pandemic are also being granted a ‘gratitude bonus’ in recognition of the teams’ hard work and dedication over the last 18 months.
- Parental Leave & Support: As of May 2021, all team members (of any gender) from the support team to chefs and CIT’s who have been at the company for 6 months are eligible for 4 months of fully-paid parental leave, a necessary employee benefit that was further highlighted by the challenges working parents faced during the pandemic. DIG is also in development with the city of New York to run a pilot program for a company-supported daycare for the hospitality industry.
- 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 of working a 4-day schedule with longer shifts (no hourly wages are sacrificed) and 3 days off. Beta insights show overwhelmingly positive impacts on team members’ ability to create balance and fulfill personal needs. DIG will continue to study the implications of this model with the goal of rolling out the program to other markets in 2022.
DIG continues its commitment to building a diverse food system, including operating its farm DIG Acres, a 20-acre mixed vegetable farm in Chester, NY that supplements DIG’s robust local supply chain. DIG Acres, led by Head Farmer Larry Tse, operates a Farmer Apprenticeship program that provides land, equipment, and mentorship to farmers that are interested in a career in agriculture but have limited opportunities to learn the craft and gain experience.
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.
At the start of the pandemic, the company also launched DIG Feeds to support healthcare and other frontline workers with a healthful, nourishing meal. To date, DIG Feeds has donated over 225k meals to hospitals, homeless shelters, and various community organizations. This platform will outlive the pandemic, with a current focus on supporting vulnerable, food insecure communities. DIG Feeds is currently running a weekly produce box program for Project Rousseau, an organization focused on supporting underprivileged youth and enabling them to pursue higher education, as well as weekly food donations to Covenant House, an organization focused on the issues of youth homelessness.
As DIG returns to growth, the company will restart its expansion plans beyond the northeast, building new restaurants in both urban and suburban markets across several formats. 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. One such program is already taking shape with a pilot 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.