Do a quick search of Dig Inn on social media, and you’ll see tens of thousands of posts from famous food bloggers, Instagrammers, college students, athletes… you name it.
What started as an unassuming expansion of a NYC-based chain to Boston blew up into one of the most well-known and successful fast-casual (or “fine-fast,” as they like to describe themselves) new restaurants in Boston.
Which brings up the question — how did they do that and what can you learn from their success? These ten factors will answer that question.
1. Use Influencers
Boston has a variety of popular Instagrammers that have over ten thousand followers, and smart restaurants capitalize on these high-profile Instagrammers. In return for a free meal, they’ll post a picture on their Instagram, which often results in an increase in restaurant traffic.
Want proof? Fellow NYC restaurant Springbone’s owner estimates that Instagram drives about 5% of their new customers. Often, if the Instagrammer falls in love with the place, they’ll post even more on their own, resulting in an almost cult-like following for the restaurant.
In addition, Dig Inn also reached out to popular local publications like Spoon University to come in for a free tasting in return for an article. Both forms of outreach are extremely low cost — the cost of a couple free meals — and can have high ROI, because it can result in your restaurant’s ability to go viral.
2. Know the Importance of Aesthetic
While on the topic of Instagram, it’s important to note Dig Inn’s genius design — it features white marble tabletops, an Instagrammer favorite. Apart from that, the entire space is clean, bright, and encapsulates the brand personality. It features a lot of natural light, which is important to taking quality food photos.
3. Have Stellar Customer Service
No matter how good the restaurant is, if the customer service isn’t good, then the customers are not coming back. One of Dig Inn’s key components of training is a customer-focused approach. Adam, the training manager, emphasizes that every single customer is important.
If someone asks to try something, they can try. If they ask for a little extra, give them extra. Dig Inn knows that the cost of an extra piece of chicken is far less than the cost of a customer never walking through the door again.
4. Launch a Brand Ambassador Program
Like influencers, brand ambassadors do a lot for word-of-mouth buzz and attracting new customers. Many food and clothing companies use brand ambassadors, but Dig Inn and its fast-casual competitors like Verts Mediterranean Grill and Sweetgreen are some of the first to also capitalize on this.
With a proper brand ambassador program, you can target your exact market for a minimal cost. By finding brand ambassadors who are passionate about your restaurant and spreading their love of it, you ensure authenticity. Awareness is key when attracting customers and getting them to consider your restaurant in their set of options when they are deciding where to eat, especially if you are targeting millennials.
Tip: When building a brand ambassador program, start small. Make sure to detail exactly what the requirements of the program are, as well as to educate your ambassadors on the brand mission and story.
5. Capitalize on Location
Not all restaurants are so fortunate to be located on a main street like Boylston Street in Boston, but if wherever you are, focus your marketing efforts on the type of people that frequent the location.
Dig Inn’s location makes it popular for those working in the area and need to grab a quick lunch, but they also target the college demographic by providing free WiFi and serving coffee and tea all day.
6. Emphasize Seasonality
No one likes a menu that never changes. Customers like getting excited for the next best thing; plus, it gives them another reason to come back to your restaurant. By letting customers know that your menu is changing (and when it will be changing), you are promoting your restaurant without being pushy.
Bonus points if you tie it in with a social media contest like Dig Inn did — not only are you promoting engagement on social media, but also building user-generated content that you can use later.
7. Make Email Stand Out
Another form of marketing that Dig Inn does especially well is email.
Like their aesthetic, their email reflects their brand personality and overall brand image. You can use email to inform customers of restaurant happenings, promotions, or talk about timely and relevant events. The main thing to keep in mind is that email should create value for the customer, which you can do through powerful, personalized emails using customer data from your POS systems.
8. Utilize Rewards
Speaking of email, it is an effective way to spontaneously reward customers who haven’t dined with you in awhile, like Dig Inn did here. You can also inform guests when they are close to closing in on loyalty rewards or send them personalized discounts. These provide an extra incentive for customers to come back in.
9. Understand Current Trends
Brunch is hip. Avocado toast is hip. Creating your own meal and customization are hip.
Dig Inn understands these trends and capitalizes on them, making them integral parts of their menu. Knowing the current trends will give you a leg up on your competitors if you begin to offer them first.
10. Don’t Fear Innovation
Like any business, restaurants need to constantly innovate to remain relevant in today’s ever-evolving society. But with innovation comes risk.
Embrace the risk. Embrace the uncertainty. Take a chance and experiment. Test new ideas.
Dig Inn began serving brunch every single day at the Boston location, something that they haven’t done before. Unless you’re from California, weekday brunch is unheard of. But they promoted it via influencers, ambassadors, and own marketing team, and was successful.
Proof: imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and fast-casual chain b.good has now also begun serving brunch on weekday mornings.