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Trep Talk

Dig Inn Founder: 'I Wouldn't Let People Tell You That You Can't Do Things'

Senior Entrepreneurship Writer at CNBC
7 min read

For farm-to-table eatery Dig Inn to be able to deliver on its mission of making fresh, healthy meals available affordably, it’s going to have to become more than a restaurant: It’s also going to have to reinvent the way food-supply chains work.

“I wouldn't let people tell you that you can’t do things,” says owner Adam Eskin, speaking to from the eatery’s newest location in lower Manhattan. “I think there is a mindset and a thinking from before of how things get done and what happens in the food space and what happens in food service. The way we are thinking and what we want to achieve in terms of changing the way that people eat, affordably, doesn’t really comport with how things used to be.”

The first iteration of New York City-based Dig Inn was a health chain catering to gym rats, but the concept wasn't gaining momentum.  In 2011, Eskin pivoted his strategy to focus on the hot farm-to-table trend but instead of concentrating on higher-price points, he aimed to offer customers an affordable meal in a fast-casual setting. For about $10, customers can get a healthy meal based on fresh vegetables, grains and carefully prepared meats. There are currently nine locations in Manhattan, and the chain is growing quickly. Eskin wants to have between 16 and 20 locations opened at the end of next year -- and that’s just the beginning.

As Dig Inn grows, so, too, will the quantity of food it serves. This increase in demand will require a little bit of creative planning on Eskin's part.

For instance, superfood kale is all the craze right now and Eskin is betting that it will remain popular in the future. To keep up with demand, keep prices low and ensure the delivery of quality kale, Dig Inn has established a direct relationship with a kale farmer in upstate New York. To help the farmer, Dig Inn covered some upfront costs, like seeds. Also, from the farmer’s perspective, the direct partnership with Dig Inn represents a steady, reliable income stream.

“It’s kind of a win, win, win, win relationship,” Eskin says.

As Dig Inn continues to grow, first regionally and then nationally, it will have to develop more and more direct relationships with suppliers, cutting out middle brokers. Also, down the road, the company may also may get involved in developing technology to make farming more efficient, says Eskin. While Eskin understands that most restaurants don’t get so deeply involved in innovating supply-chain logistics or farming technology, he realizes that to be able to offer quality food at scale, Dig Inn is going to have to change the status quo.

Watch this video to hear what Eskin dreams for Dig Inn’s future and how he plans to pave new roads to get there.


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