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relates to Dig Inn Wants to Optimize Your Sad Desk Lunch
Photographer: Caroline Tompkins for Bloomberg Businessweek

Dig Inn Wants to Optimize Your Sad Desk Lunch

The fast-casual chain is moving away from third-party platforms like Grubhub to deliver its farm-to-desk meals directly to consumers.

On any given weekday, millions of office workers descend on downtown streets in search of a decent lunch. At noon on a Tuesday in December, some have found themselves at Dig Inn on East 52nd Street in New York, in line for a healthful-but-hearty grain bowl. Four employees dish out portions of brown rice and Brussels sprouts as several others speed around the open kitchen, replenishing trays of wild salmon and charred chicken. Off to one side, six employees bustle around two banks of steam tables, frantically assembling an endless stream of desk lunches for the growing number of customers who decide not to make the trek. An open laptop displays incoming orders from three different delivery platforms. Every few seconds a digital klaxon announces the arrival of another order, giving the feel of a nuclear power station on the verge of a meltdown.

Scott Landers, Dig Inn’s 27-year-old director of “off-site” (delivery and catering), surveys the scene with barely contained torment as dozens of pink paper bags pile up on an aluminum shelving unit. In 2017, Dig Inn hired Landers, an MIT grad with a background in civil engineering, to rethink the way the company handles delivery—a segment of the industry that has grown faster than many restaurant groups can manage. At this location, it’s not unusual for 60 to 90 minutes to elapse from the time an order is placed to when it’s delivered. “If you look at Yelp scores for delivery vs. guests who come in, it looks like two different brands,” Landers says. Delivery orders score an average of 1.5 stars on Yelp, whereas Dig Inn’s overall rating is a 4.0.