Dig Inn is a fast-casual restaurant chain with 14 locations in NYC. Featuring “healthy” meals on its menus, Dig Inn uses particular textures and surfaces inside its locations to create a system of signs that package the chain as one that values and provides healthy, natural and clean food to its health-conscious, environmentally-friendly and taste-sensitive customers.
The use of particular surfaces starts on the exterior of Dig Inn, which features large windows and a glass door. Immediately inside, there are wooden bookshelves and a marble counter top where customers sort their waste. A few steps farther into the restaurant, glass, marble, and wood continue to rule the day. The ordering line parallels the marble counter top where the food is made, and a foot-tall glass panel separates the customer from the food. Wooden bowls are used to build the customer’s meal, which is then placed on a wooden-looking plastic tray. Above the counter and spanning its length is a series of white, open shelves that hold ingredient jars and drinking glasses. Adjacent to the cash register is a water faucet and several clear glasses for customer use.
From the many different elements of the restaurant, a common theme emerges: Dig Inn is “natural.” The use of wood in the restaurant’s package connotes that the ingredients are out-of-the-earth and sustainable, appealing to the customers’ desire for unprocessed, environmentally-friendly, “pure” food. The use of glass, particularly next to the food preparation, signifies a sense of transparency–there’s nothing “fake” or harmful in the ingredients; they’re just honest, real, good-for-you. The use of marble, a mineral of the earth, enhances this “natural” theme of the brand package while also giving the space a very “clean” aesthetic, signifying that the food is “clean” and healthy. The designated water area with clear glasses not only reinforces the “natural” theme, but it also symbolizes the vitality that is present in the healthy food of the restaurant and the mental clarity that comes from eating healthfully.
When considering the elements of Dig Inn as a system of interconnected signifiers that create a meaningful package, it is clear that the company is appealing to a relatively recent cultural shift that demands healthier, more straightforward ingredients and environmentally-sustainable food options. By tapping into themes of naturalness, transparency, cleanliness, and vitality through its signifiers, Dig Inn strives for and effectively achieves a deeper emotional connection with the customer: trust.