The project idea stems from a monotonous experience at a restaurant while waiting for food, a waiter, waiting in line for a table and other similar issues. Having a waiter serve multiple tables requires a lot of mental effort and resources on the waiter as well as the management’s behalf. Further, a rush period might delay the time taken to service a customer. This causes the customers to wait for certain lengthy periods of time, sitting, if he has already been allotted a table or standing in a queue claiming the next table. This waiting time though does not include the time taken by the waiter to attend to him, time to prepare and serve his dish and time to have to wait in case he needs additional food or drinks. Also, having multiple TV’s show sports and news channels does not engage every single customer. Many of the customers prefer interacting with their mobile phone instead or using some other gadget while at the restaurant.
The concept of this project is to improvise the user experience at a restaurant in an interactive way by having the users play games and compete both individually and collectively against another table. The system design will also automate certain processes that can help the restaurant function in a more flexible and efficient way. For example, in times of rush, the customers could press the ‘Call Waiter’ button to let the team of waiters knows that they need assistance. They could also split and pay the bill by using the feature on the interactive tablet. The system design has five entities – the customer, the kitchen chefs, the waiters, the reservation desk and the manager. The artifacts associated include an interactive tablet for every table, a POS system that keeps track of the orders for every table, generates bills and an internal communication system for managers, chefs and waiters.
To design a system that incorporates the needs of our users, we decided to conduct contextual inquiries to gain an insight into the problems and possible design solutions that would be incorporated in the final design. For an unbiased information, along with three of my friends and I, have interviewed several people about their dining experiences. My interviewee was a person who had some experience using such an interactive system at a restaurant, albeit not a good one. He needed assistance to use the system and found it vague as such to understand at first and customization options for his orders were missing. Harshad, he spoke to his friend who frequently visits restaurants and had some experience with an interactive system which allowed him to play games which were a real let down as the quality of tablets and choice of games was poor. Utsav, my other friend spoke to his colleague, who is a photo enthusiast and a food blogger. This user would frequently visit restaurants with friends and family members and although he had never encountered such interactive systems but he definitely gave an insight into the problems he would face and what features he would like to see. Sampath spoke to his grad school friend who had a different experience regarding an interactive system as his phone was the major artifact involved. The system provided reservation status online and would also send a text message to the user involved.
INTERPRETATION: Flow Models
Consolidated sequence model
The interviewees offered a variety of opinions that influenced the factors to be considered for the final design. Following are the key learnings from the affinity diagrams and the work models.
There was a miscommunication between the waiter and the Reservation Desk where the waiter wasn’t conveyed that there was a desk she was responsible for. This ended in being a waiting time of 40 minutes for the customer; after which a customer called out another waiter and the situation was sorted. The customer expects a better channel of communication between the reservation desk and the waiters.
The customer reserved a table by calling the restaurant but due to some problem was not reserved and he had to wait to get a table assigned. The customer wants a more reliable way to reserve a table and get a confirmation after that.
The customer is allergic to peanuts and he needs the information about the sauce used in the recipe. After the waiter mentions that it contains peanuts; he needs to start the process of choosing the dish he wants again. He would like a display that can show the allergens present in the dish.
The customer is hypersensitive to seafood and wants to convey to the chef that his food needs to be prepared using the allergy kit. He wants a list of allergens in each dish; and if it can be ordered without those ingredients (like gluten).
The customer is too shy to call out the waiter, and waits for the waiter to come along so he can talk to him. He wants an easier way to call the Waiter.
The customer visits the restaurant and orders the food that takes the least time to prepare, and wants an update on how much time it takes to prepare and serve it. He would like an estimate of time so he can think about ordering fast preparing dishes.
The customer would like to address issues such as the delay on food delivered and issues like a wrong dish served. The customer would also like to give suggestions on getting to know about the status of food ordered. Food enthusiasts would also be willing to speak to the manager before blogging about the service and food offered at the restaurant.
The customer does not like meat bones in his food. He wants to know which dishes contain meat with and without bones, and whether he can have it with the bones pulled out. He needs to know how he can customize his order.
The customer does not like certain ingredients in the dish. He wants to know if he can swap them with something else; or does he need to order it without them. He would like to know which dishes can be customized and how much.
The customer is health conscious and counts the calorie and fat intake in every meal. It also helps him decide which dish he orders. He would like information about the nutrients posted in the menu.
The customer is a food blogger and enjoys fine dishes. He would like to compliment the chef and write a local review that can be seen by people that visit the place. He wants a digital bulletin board where the people post opinions in the restaurant itself.
The customer wants to know the most recommended dishes in the restaurant. He wants to know the restaurant special as well as the most recommended dishes reviewed by the customers. He wants an easier way to access the recommendations for the particular restaurant.
The customer wants to know which dish is most preferred by the customers. He wants a star-based rating system for the dishes to help him order easily.
The customer usually visits the restaurant with his friends from college. He pays the bill sometimes and people forget to pay him back; so he would like to have a way to split and pay separate bills. He would like a way in which everyone pays for the dishes they ordered.
The customer tries to play a game on the tablet system while he waits for the food, When he selected the game to play, the system prompts him to pay in order to start the game. The customer doesn’t have access to free games.
The customer wants to indulge in multiplayer gaming with other customers in the restaurant, the tablet doesn’t have support for multiplayer games.
The customer has been told that there is a waiting time of 20 minutes. He wants to know if there is a way to order food while he is waiting so that the food arrives when he is assigned a table. He also wonders if it is possible to do it when he reserves a table in advance.
The customer is an international student; so he does not know the local dishes well enough and needs to search every dish online before selecting what he wants. He cannot judge the dish based on ingredients. He wants a description of a dish complete with a picture so he gets a clear idea of a dish before he orders it.
The customer has ordered a dish based on the ingredients, but he does not know how is the meat served. He would like to know the details as he only likes it a certain way. It would be easier to take a decision with more details. He wants more details about the dishes on the menu.
#Problem 1 - Summon a waiter without lengthy delays.
#Problem 2 - Information about calorie count of food.
#Problem 3 - Information about food ingredients in dish is missing.
#Problem 4 - Needs status updates on food taking too long.
#Problem 5 - Bill split functionality missing.
#Problem 6 - Customize food order
#Problem 7 - Checking the ID
#1 - Cannot track the status of food
#2 - Cannot update the vacancy of table to the receptionist
#3 - Sum up all the bills into one at check-out (eg., Drinks)
#1 - Status of table vacancy
#2 - Prioritizing the customers for table allocation
#1 - Prioritize the orders
#2 - Communication with the waiter
#3 - Notify the manager if preparing any dish is not possible
#4 - A call to Address customer’s complaints over food
#1 - Inventory of food items
#2 - Analytics of business?
#3 - A call to address customer’s complaints
List of Improvements to be made that benefit the users.
The digital menu must include information such as food description, nutrition information, representative pictures of the food item, type of cuisine and most importantly options for people who have food allergies. Moreover, placing an order should also include special instructions that the customers might want to include such as the spice level, type of cheese being used etc.,
The tablet should allow the users to perform variety of actions such as summoning a waiter in case they need any form of assistance, allow to pay the bill electronically by snapping a picture of their card, (while ensuring their privacy) and also allow the customers to submit and view reviews and submit recommendations regarding their experience.
The games that would be presented on the tablet should allow participation of all the customers, games like trivia should not include vague and unanswerable questions that would instantly turn off the users. Further, to allow all the users to interact with the tablet, it should be mounted on a stand that can rotate so that all the customers at a table can interact with it efficiently (both while browsing a menu and playing games)
In the time of a rush period, there should be a feature which allows the waiting users to pre-order their food so that they are served with their orders without waiting for lengthy periods of time. The Reservation Desk needs to inform the customers waiting in line about how much time would it approximately take to find an available table for them.
The system should have information about allergic substances in the meals. Such as including a feature “allergy alert”. So that the user can type in what they are allergic and skip the meals that contain these substances.
Users should be able to rate and recommend dishes to other customers and their friends.
Spice level indicator and a scale to increase or decrease the spice level. Even the
ingredients should be adjustable according to the user's preferences.
The tablet system should include order status option to know how much time it takes for the order to be served.