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!
Product Designer and User Researcher
3 months / Spring 2018
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
- 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.
- 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
Themes from User Interviews
In a course of one week, I interviewed eight servers across Chicago to understand user behavior, common traits, motivations, and pain points.
Visual Scenario #1: Getting ready for work
Trends and factors impacting the restaurant industry
Multi-tasking and miscommunication
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?
Working with bulky aprons
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?
Primary Contacts for User Feedback
Server at an upscale restaurant on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago.
Has industry experience of 20 years.
Server at a casual local bar on Taylor Street in West Loop of Chicago.
Has industry experience of 2 years
Problem Journey Board 1: Physically demanding job
Problem Journey Board 2: Mentally draining job
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
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.
"Love the Height and Slenderness" (Brandi)
"Looks Modern and Playful"(Maddi)
"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
Braille guide demo
Grooves on the bottom to identify interaction surface
Stoppers to avoid the bars from falling
Icon marrkers for different signals
" 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.