DIG: DIG Academy

What happens when a cooking company makes education core to their brand.

DIG is a national US chain of locally farm-sourced restaurants changing the food game from the roots up. With 31 locations across 4 states sourcing 2m+ pounds of annual produce from 65 hyper-local farms, keeping their house in order is top priority. That begins at DIG Academy, a key initiative responsible for onboarding, training, and equipping the next generation of farmers, cooks, and chefs - both inside and outside the organization. Over time, they’d traced a handful of inconsistencies, inefficiencies, and pain points back to the program—but hadn’t reached the level of clarity and precision necessary to make moves forward.

After an initial 6-week research intensive, our team found it for them— assessing, diagnosing, and priming every soft spot in Dig Academy’s foundation. Our discovery pointed us in the direction of 15 bespoke solutions, each designed to target a specific point of opportunity along the Academy pipeline. Get the scoop on Phase I here.

The setup

From the menu we provided, the DIG leadership team honed in on four immediate priorities:

  • Optimization of their recurring all-hands restaurant leader meeting. The main comms line threading every dispersed location together needed some serious hygiene control.
  • A stronger, sturdier, more inspiring new hire training curriculum. Standardization and a healthy dose of creativity would help set every manager up for maximum success.
  • To train the trainers for greater consistency across training and ops. The network effect at its best, creating a truly self-sustaining ecosystem.
  • A complete LMS audit and overhaul … without starting from scratch. The infrastructure, technology, and source of all truths for every restaurant-facing team.

The considerations

A recap from Phase I: To run a DIG restaurant, you’ve got to be an all-star. The DIG menu changes with the seasons. That’s four complete cycles of regeneration—from kitchen to supply chain, talent, messaging, decor, attitudes, general vibes—per year. Customers who order in Boston and Brooklyn should have the same brand experience. That requires synergy across locations that stay largely independent of each other; DIG empowers restaurant leaders to run each location like their own small business. While liberating, too much autonomy and not enough training leads to noticeable error. And with a lack of upfront expectation alignment, turnover rates become dangerous.

What we were up against in Phase II: The DIG team was hungry for near-immediate relief, with the kind of regenerative impact that could sustain their present ops and future-proof their growth. We needed to consider, align, and design for a decentralized network of tightly involved people with varying objectives, strengths, and limitations; the sheer number of stakeholders alone posed a logistical challenge. Our work had to fortify culture as much as it did operations. And we had 12 weeks to start delivering results.

The Expedition

💡 Using our ‘Loop’ based approach to rapid scoping, design, build, and iteration, we focused in on four key initiatives:

Loop 1.1: The Field Call

Objective: Optimize DIG’s recurring store leader all-hands

How we did it:

  • Observed numerous Field Calls
  • Identified, onboarded, and trialed new meeting technology to combat Zoom fatigue and encourage interactivity
  • Created technology user guides to match
  • Designed and developed a library of agendas and tools for meeting facilitators to access and engage with ease
  • Ran live workshops with facilitators to socialize a new “live production” meeting style (one that psychologically recalibrates these meetings as events rather than chores)
  • Piloted the new Field Call structure across other managerial divisions
  • Delivered a package of intuitive templates and guidelines to use across all Field Calls

What we saw: Seismic increases in attendance rate, NPS score, and engagement across the entire team. And the whole thing felt more like an engaging TV production than a flat online meeting.

Field Call test run and training
Field Call Guide

Loop 1.2: Classroom Training

Objective: A stronger, sturdier, more inspiring new hire training curriculum

How we did it:

  • Conducted numerous user interview with the training team and COs to identify major pain points
  • Reimagined some parts of the training structure, reinforced others
  • Designed new sessions to fill previously empty gaps in the curriculum
  • Redesigned 13 sessions to include user interaction, guided exercises, session breakdowns, takeaway materials, and more
  • Gamified the entire experience with card games, trivia, and other natural yawn suppressants
  • Developed facilitation, content production, and program guides you’d actually want to read
  • Conducted 13 1-1 sessions with core team members to set off the network effect
  • Tested the new program in its entirety with three departments.

What we saw: We’re still in our rollout phase!

Loop 1.3: Train the Trainer

Objective: To train the trainers for greater consistency across training and ops - and ensure their unique personalities shine through

How we did it:

  • Designed and developed a 5-session training program for store manager trainers inspired by food psychology, the NYC restaurant scene, hairology, case studies, and 7-minute pitch competitions
  • Piloted with program with a first cohort
  • Aligned on content and design adjustments, brand and product integrations
  • Brought some of the projects into public-facing marketing initiatives

What we saw: We’re still in our rollout phase!

Loop 1.4: Pantry Prototypes

Objective: A complete LMS audit and overhaul … without starting from scratch

How we did it:

  • Executed a comprehensive audit of The Pantry, Dig’s internal LMS
  • Conducted user interviews
  • Kogged 20+ potential user journeys
  • Redesigned its navigational information architecture
  • Prototyped wireframes, designs, and live beta versions for its web and app experiences
  • Ran 14 user tests with an external control group and DIG users
  • Deployed a survey during newly designed Field Calls to capture user knowledge and test A/B variations of The Pantry
  • Delivered insights, recommendations, and next steps for the buildout.

What we saw: A successful prototype, cross-department buy-in, and enthusiasm for Phase III - launching a brand new Digital Learning Space.

The payoff

We’re currently in the works of Phase III with Dig Academy. Sign up for our new newsletter The Exchange to be the first to know when we can talk about it.

As for WTHQ, here’s what we took away:

  • Having the pieces and making sure they all connect are two totally different beasts
  • Designing for vs. around your people is a distinction that defines good businesses
  • If a stumpy, grumpy cauliflower can turn into something delicious and nourishing, you can go do that thing you’ve been putting off for 2 months
  • Approaching company experiences as being more like a production is counter-intuitive - but it can transform even the most functional parts of the system

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Let’s get down to business.

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