What's Up?

Summary

A summoning system designed for restaurants in the United States, which helps servers know when patrons need attention. The product aims to reduce physical and mental stress in the servers’ routine. It also improves the patron experience by reducing interruptions in the dining.​

 

So no more waiting for “chance eye contacts” to summon a server!

Key aspects

Role

User-centric process

Qualitative research

Prototyping

User testing

Product Designer and User Researcher

Timeline

3 months / Spring 2018

Course

Designed Objects 3,

School of the Art Institute of Chicago

"Sometimes patrons want immediate attention and other times they prefer to not be interrupted while dinning, so this system will be helpful." 

- Edward, a restaurant server in Downtown Chicago

 

How does this work?

To summon the server, patrons slide the appropriate bar upwards. 

Pink bar is for general assistance and the teal green bar is for check.

The servers can then come prepared with any tools they may require and take care of the customers’ needs.

After catering to the patron’s needs, the servers push the bar down

 

Product Features

- Visible from long distances and all directions

- Blends in the ambience

- Easy to clean and maintain

- Separate color indicators for general assistance and checks

- Interface accessible by people with blindness and low vision.

Benefits

- One time investment

- Minimum use of restaurant's resources

- Improves service efficiency thus faster turnaround times

- Reduces mental and physical stress on the servers

- No unnecessary interruption while dining 

- Effective communication improves server's tips.

 

Design Validation and Impact

"I think this is an amazing and a very useful tool. It also looks very clean." 

- Jacob, a restaurant server in Downtown Chicago

Design Process

 

Qualitative Research

Themes from User Interviews

Servers Interview Research.png

In a course of one week, I interviewed eight servers across Chicago to understand user behavior, common traits, motivations, and pain points. 

Empathetic Observations

Visual Scenario #1: Getting ready for work

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Secondary Research

Trends and factors impacting the restaurant industry

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Problems Identified

Theme

Multi-tasking and miscommunication

Insight

Servers have to multitask, walk back and forth multiple times for individual tables, remember orders, and yet take the wrath of customers if there is a lack of communication.

How Might We reduce the physical efforts in server's job?

Theme

Working with bulky aprons

Insight

Servers have to carry a lot of tools like pens, notepad, check holders, cash change in their aprons which gets bulky, and as a result cause hinderance in work. 

How Might We reduce the bulk in their aprons?

Design Ideations

 
Ideations Compiled.png

Primary Contacts for User Feedback

BRANDI L.

Server at an upscale restaurant on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago.

Has industry experience of 20 years.

more...

MADDI R.

Server at a casual local bar on Taylor Street in West Loop of Chicago.

Has industry experience of 2 years

more...

Chosen Problem

Problem Journey Board 1: Physically demanding job

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Problem Journey Board 2: Mentally draining job

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After taking feedbacks from the contacts on ideations and doing further observational research, the problems of lack of communication and inconvenience to the servers due to going back and forth multiple times seemed to be the most prominent ones.

This is a problem that also affects the dinning experience of the guests in the restaurants where they have to wait for the chance eye contacts to summon the servers for any assistance or for checks. This in turn greatly impacts server tips.

Competitive Market Research

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Current solutions present in the market are expensive and use restaurant resources to work and don't take into account user experience.
 
Based on user research data, industry trends and competitive market research, the product to be developed should have minimum dependency on restaurant's resources for which it should avoid digital and complex mechanisms.
 

Prototyping

 
User Feedback

Likes
"Love the Height and Slenderness" (Brandi)
 "Looks Modern and Playful"(Maddi)

Problems

"People might steal the loose pieces and play with it" (Brandi)

"Requires a lot of thought in use for servers, they might forget to put it down in a hurry" (Maddi)


"Might be difficult to clean the top piece." (Brandi)

Design for Accessibility

With use of colors that allow for better visibility and braille guides the design is accessible to people with visual impairments such as color blindness, low vision, and complete blindness.

Punching braille strips

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Braille guide demo

Grooves on the bottom to identify interaction surface

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Stoppers to avoid the bars from falling

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Icon marrkers for different signals

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Other Testimonials

" That's a cool idea, instead of people whistling or yelling heyyyy, this is so much better."
 

  - Bartender Terri from Maddi's Restaurant

" Although I didn't know the context of this system until you told me, from a distance with these sliding bars I could say that this was a signaling system."
                                                                                                                                                                             

- Eric Hotchkiss, Industrial Designer

Thank you so much Maddi R. and Brandi L. for constant feedbacks to help me in my research and prototype testing. And special thanks to Shen, Sujit, Anirudh, Jacob, Edward and Ceci for your support.