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Blog | Restaurant Life

Conscious Culture: Dig Inn New York’s Fresh Approach to QSR and People

By Laura Price, Manager, HotSchedules Content Team If you haven’t heard what the crew at New York’s Dig Inn are doing, it’s time to dig in. The passionate group of talented restaurant people running and growing this up-and-coming brand are first and foremost committed to building community through food. They do it by forming genuine, […]

By Laura Price, Manager, HotSchedules Content Team

If you haven’t heard what the crew at New York’s Dig Inn are doing, it’s time to dig in.

The passionate group of talented restaurant people running and growing this up-and-coming brand are first and foremost committed to building community through food. They do it by forming genuine, trusting relationships with their farmers and partners, and by serving food that embraces the seasons.

On top of it all, they do it in the style of quick service, a challenge and a passion, Shannon Flynn, Director of Training & Development says grew from the idea that great food should come at a reasonable price.

“It’s been amazing to watch this business grow and evolve over the past three years. The connection to our farmers, our commitment to sustainability and the quality of our food come from our passion. That passion is the heartbeat of a lot of things that drive us.”

Momentum & Mindfulness

As the Dig Inn family grew to 12 restaurants, with several more locations on the way this year, that passion has also bred its own set of recruiting challenges.

“We are a quick-service concept running a full-service kitchen model so we need a lot of culinary talent. Our all-star team comes together to make this work. Their tireless efforts are baked in to make this a win.”

Going Against the Grain and Tasting Great

The path hasn’t always been straight or paved for the Dig Inn team. But instead of looking at it as a hurdle, the team sees it as an asset, pushing forward with creative solutions. “We acknowledge reality and are never too proud to say ‘eh, that didn’t work, let’s try something else,’” says Shannon.

This came up in their management and leadership structure. They were running the typical structure: GM, kitchen manager, and then kitchen-level staff.

But, as Shannon says, “we realized it wasn’t going to work for us; the food quality was suffering and development was challenging because we were spread too thin. So we reintroduced the Classical Brigade Structure suggested by our Culinary Director.”

The new brigade system solved the food quality issue almost immediately. At the same time, it created an environment where new leaders could emerge and ongoing development could continue.

“The brigade structure gave our employees that ownership over the food that we all needed – to make sure things are right. Recipes are only as good as the people behind them. We said, ‘it’s up to you guys. If it doesn’t taste good, use your sensors and your independent choice to make it better.’”

“We’re going a little bit against the grain. We’re empowering our team to be human, to be artistic, to treat every dish like it’s the only thing they’re working on and providing that personalized service that makes our experience different.”

“We are a quick-service concept running a full-service kitchen model so we need a lot of culinary talent. Our all-star team comes together to make this work. Their tireless efforts are baked in to make this a win.”

– Shannon Flynn, Director of Training and Development

Sustainable Fishing in the Culinary Talent Pool

Shannon loves that Dig Inn’s mission is a challenge. Having been in the industry for 20 years – starting in full service and working her way up to management and then on the People Team at Dig Inn – she joined the concept to make an impact. And she’s doing just that.

She’s proud of the people who have joined the organization and the culture they’ve been able to craft over the years. She’s also quick to point out that, right now, the biggest obstacle is the drought in the culinary field.

“We tried the career days and we had a lot of people showing up who weren’t the right fit.”

Dig Inn wasn’t afraid to go back to the drawing board to draw up a new plan for attracting the right kind of culinary talent.

They started with the “who.” The Dig Inn team decided they want to attract employees who are looking to grow organically through the restaurant. “We don’t necessarily require a degree and we look to emerging talent – people who want to learn, work and grow – those are the people we consider great candidates.”

To attract and hire the newest crop of culinary talent, they rely on a mix of calculated recruiting efforts. “Our connections with our employees and within our industry have worked for us,” Shannon says.

“We look at culinary schools and various degree programs coming out of local colleges. Everyone in our company wears a recruiting hat and refers candidates regularly. We have a constant source of referrals.”

Dig Inn has also reached out in some traditionally unconventional pools with some early successes.

“We don’t necessarily require a degree and we look to emerging talent – people who want to learn, work and grow – those are the people we consider great candidates.”

“In New York, we have community outreach programs that have been great to work with – whether it’s to go out and teach and engage with them or actually offer positions for the right person.”

For example, Dig Inn works with Covenant House – a program that helps homeless, runaway and at-risk youth get back on their feet and find resources to help with Life Coaching and development. “When we talk to them, we don’t just focus on the culinary piece. We find out what they are passionate about and talk about how an experience in the restaurant can support those passions and teach them some additional skills.”

Life skills in some cases. “We teach our team how to cook. And we understand that not everyone is going to spend their entire career with us. This is a transitional job for many people in this industry. We can’t deny that. At Dig Inn, we want to make sure that the time someone spends with us is meaningful, that there’s learning and growth. We want to be a part of the ride.”

The result is a recruiting ripple effect. “We’re starting to hear from people from all over. Even internationally, people are reaching out to us asking if we have any open opportunities. That’s been incredible to experience,” Shannon adds.

The Journey Doesn’t Stop

There’s so much more cropping up for the Dig Inn crew. And it would take another thousand words to really hone in on everything they’re doing to recruit the right culinary talent and help their employees grow their careers and their passions, while delivering the best food and service to their loyal guests.

What’s true about this emerging concept is that they are grounded in their mission, they are open to constant change and welcome opportunities to try something new – even if it means shaking up their recruiting process with non-traditional channels to reach people who are ripe and ready to put their passions to work.

About Dig Inn

To learn more about Dig Inn and their careers, visit their Careers Site. You can also visit their awesome blog to learn more about their sourcing practices and how they do what they do best!

Editor’s Note: Dig Inn is a HotSchedules Customer. Since 2015, they’ve been using HotSchedules online restaurant scheduling software and HotSchedules Logbook for tracking employee communications and shift logs. More recently, they’ve rolled out HotSchedules Train powered by Schoox to support the growth and training goals for their team.

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