Scope and Preliminary Concepts
Below is the result of our initial rounds of observation and ideation. At the start of the project, we each generated ideas for areas we would like to explore—areas we thought could benefit from a design focused on augmenting people’s memory. Each of us observed a location or set of locations and individually generated ideas and sketches for augmenting those spaces. We then convened to share ideas, whittle down our initial list of concepts, and expand on the ideas we had come up with individually. The result is a set of concepts that center on augmenting customers’ experiences at bars and restaurants. Three main concepts are described below.
Broadly speaking, the audience for these concepts is restaurant or bar patrons. We are interested in examining several aspects of the customer experience, including the process of selecting a bar or restaurant, the process of choosing menu items, and the practice of sharing drinks with friends.
Deciding where to eat and what to order are, at first glance, seemingly trivial. However we have all found ourselves unable to make such decisions amid so many choices. The concepts below could prove useful to a wide audience, given the diversity of people who visit bars and restaurants.
Informal observations were carried out at two restaurants, one coffee shop, and one bar. Additionally, at least one instance of selecting a restaurant for dinner was observed and many more personal accounts of that challenge were recalled. Below are selected notes from these observations.
- People often have difficulty choosing items from the menu.
- Patrons do not have an easy means of recalling or tracking past order history.
- User-generated recommendations often already exist, but that information is not always accessible to customers.
- Choosing where to eat is often difficult.
- Friends often purchase drinks for each other either as a sign of good faith or because they “owe” a friend.
Proposal of Concepts
Here, we highlight three concepts that arose from the above-listed observations.
The Digital Menu: This is a concept for a mobile app designed to enhance or potentially replace standard restaurant and bar menus. See Figure 1.
- The digital menu could aggregate recommendations from Foursquare, Yelp, Google Places, Oink, and other similar services.
- The menu could include filters for viewing items based on dietary restrictions, nutritional information, and food pairings.
- The menu could include the ability to leave a personal comment about an item for easy reference on subsequent visits.
- Purchases could be made directly by using the app, potentially linking a PayPal account or by using NFC technology to make purchases by touching a phone to the menu.
- Particularly for bars, an option to randomly select a drink could aid in making decisions. This could be useful for the patron who does not like to have the same drink twice or who simply wants to explore new offerings. One possibility is a board-game-style spinner that users could flick to select a drink at random. This adds an element of gamification to the app and could prove engaging in social situations. See Figure 2.
- Finally, personalized recommendations based on prior menu selections could help users make choices. This would again likely prove most useful at bars where customers often want similar types of drinks but still want to try something new. The recommendation could be based on drinks the user has “liked.” See Figure 3.
Finding the Right Place: This concept centers on finding a bar based on nearby happy hours and reserving space to avoid waiting in line.
- Dubbed “Be Happy,” this feature targets the user who wants quick access to happy hour information and other drink specials. The feature could provide a list of nearby specials. See Figure 4.
- The system could include a short-term reservation system to avoid waiting in potentially long lines. The bar would automatically track how many people are in it. Users could then make temporary reservations when they are on the way to the bar. If no seats are available, the system could recommend other nearby or related bars. This would require that an extensive automatic monitoring system be built into the bar so that employees would not have to manually track how many people are present and where those people are sitting.
Sharing Drinks: This concept offers an easy means of “gifting” drinks to friends. This system could be used to share recommended drinks with friends. If a user finds a great drink he wants a someone to try, he could purchase it with this system and the friend could redeem the drink on her next visit to that bar. This could additionally provide a means paying back friends for those informal I’ll-buy-you-a-beer agreements.
- The app could include a way to purchase a drink and send a notification to a friend.
- Users could get location-aware notifications when they near a bar from which a friend has gifted them a drink. See Figure 5.
- Users could get badges for various actions including gifting certain types of drinks, gifting a certain number of drinks, or being marked as the designated driver.