Taylor Lanzet and Kristen Barnett are the dynamic duo behind sustainability and supply chain at Dig Inn — everyone's favorite vegetable celebrating restaurant. We talk about Dig Inn's farm, the multiple definitions of sustainability, and their initiatives to reduce food waste.
You can find two MISFIT flavors: Straight Up' OJ and A Better OJ in twelve of their restaurants in NYC. Read more about our collaboration here.
MISFIT: Friends Hi! Can you both please describe the mission and vision of Dig Inn?
Taylor: Dig Inn’s mission is to serve as many vegetables to as many people as possible. We want to support the community that we are a part of — whether that's the farmers we source from or the teams that serve our food or the backend teams that work to make our restaurants run.
Kristen: The way we envision serving mostly vegetables is multifaceted. 1. We want to serve more vegetables, 2. We want to express what we think the food system should be and 3. Bring those things to life with really amazing recipes that highlight really amazing vegetables and encourage Americans to shift their pallets toward more vegetable forward dietary habits. By making that accessible and delicious, we are also incentivizing the right partners who share that same vision of making vegetables tasty, accessible and of the norm in our eating habits.
MISFIT: I love the idea that vegetables are the center of everything that you guys do. Can you guys explain why you think a vegetable forward and plant based diet is meaningful for our food system?
Taylor: It’s meaningful because in many ways it’s radical and not the norm. Specialty foods, which include fruits and vegetables, make up less than 2% of what’s grown in our country — that’s a really small percentage! Most restaurants in our country are not planning their meals around fruits and vegetables, let alone sourcing from local and regional farmers and partners that they know. So, in many ways, it’s radical to center a meal around vegetables because we want that 2% to grow. In our eyes, if that number is growing then more and more people will be buying vegetables and cooking in their homes. Maybe they are eating celeriac for the first time at Dig Inn, and then are comfortable enough to recognize it. For me, that’s a lot of why it’s so meaningful. We want people to be comfortable in our restaurants to try new things. We want people to feel more comfortable walking into a grocery store or farmer’s market, seeing an array of fruits and vegetables, and then filling their carts with a larger proportion of those things.
Kristen: What we focus on is changing daily habits. One way which we bring that to life is how we engage our customers in our rollouts. Our rollouts focus on the new vegetables that we are featuring in the dishes — they are seasonal, local and what is available at the time. We aren’t necessarily unveiling a new protein every roll out. What we are doing is really putting the focus on the vegetables and making those the stars of the meal and hoping that they garner excitement from our guests.
MISFIT: I think that the kale, curry delicata squash is universal. I can’t think of a single person who wouldn’t like that. So that definitely resonates. Can you two talk about what having your own farm means for Dig Inn pushing this mission forward?
Taylor: Our farm is really the centerpiece of the food future we are building. And it’s funny, because depending on which angle you approach it from, the beginning of buying our own farm was really an effort to become better partners to the farmers we currently support. The challenges our farmers face day to day — we don’t really understand yet — and we wanted to go deeper and really experience what those challenges are from the point of view of being a grower ourselves. That being said, the most important thing for us to articulate throughout this process, is we are in the business of keeping other farmers in business. Gosh, I say that all simply because we do not want to vertically integrate and build our own supply chain. And in no way can our farm support the scale that we want our business to grow to. Simply, our farm, will be our home and our hub, where we grow food to complement our menu. We will start with speciality heirloom varieties, herbs, flowers, and trialing some forgotten vegetables varieties — our forgotten friends. Trialing is really exciting because we can then go to one of our growers and say, “Hey we have been testing out a specialty summer squash that we want to build into our menu. Will you give it a go and grow it for us?” Visioning a farm in this way, is really then about setting up systems to collaborate with other farmers and push the conversation around farm to table, because we do not just want to be one restaurant, we have 14 and are growing. Our farm will also be a training tool for all our team members. As a team member, the experience of growing and harvesting the same sweet potatoes that you’re serving in a restaurant, will make you more knowledge and passionate about the food system. Thus the educational programming of the farm will be centered around Dig Inn team members coming to the farm — because the good food movement is not just about growing food — it’s about growing farmers and training people.