The one with an in-depth UX research
Small & Medium restaurants face difficulties with inventory management. Many of them don't have time or enough team members to attend it, and the available products in the market are difficult to use. The biggest problem here is that inventory management is one of the most sensitive parts of a restaurant's business operation. So this lack of control can result in significant losses for them.
Paola is a platform to simplify inventory management, helping small & medium restaurants turn into more conscious and efficient businesses.
Lead UX Researcher
In this project, the goal was to understand the context of the small & medium restaurants, getting insights about their needs, pains, and expectations related to inventory management.
Understanding the market
We started looking for the main models and structures of food establishments in the market to map the scenario and understand which ones we should look at more deeply.
The restaurants represent the major percentage of the food market, with 54% of the market. There are three main restaurant models: À lá carte, Self-service, and All you can eat. The second-largest market share includes snack bars, cafes & canteens with 28%. Other businesses, like pubs & bars, represent 11%.
There are also the called Dark Kitchens - Establishments that do not receive people physically - they only sell through delivery channels.
Understanding the user
To understand the target audience of the product deeply, we decided to structure a user research activity. We mapped the three pillars we wanted to discover
The personality of the owners, their ambitions, perspectives, and thoughts.
How is the business structured? What are the routines related to the inventory management?
The critical aspects of the operation and why it occurs.
STEP 1 - SEMI STRUCTURED INTERVIEWS
We started the research by conducting 25 semi-structured interviews with selected business owners. For that, we prepared a basic script containing the topics to approach
STEP 2 - IMMERSION
Then, we realized 3 immersion activities in small restaurant operations, closely following the day-by-day operations of their businesses.
The research has generated a diversity of insights that we documented and compiled. They were organized into two groups: the business (identifying the pains and opportunities) and the responsible person (to understand more about the people behind the businesses).
*The names, images, and brands were changed to preserve the people and businesses involved.
From the insights we have collected, we were able to understand the convergent characteristics and behavior. Seen clearly these patterns, we could create the user personas - stereotyped versions of customers to demonstrate common behaviors.
At that moment, we could see three clusters:
Still lost about his restaurant;
Has a few suppliers but hasn't spent time looking for the best ones;
Doesn't have proper inventory management;
Has a few employees and thinks he can handle everything;
Products are often lacking, and he has to resort more expensive suppliers, who deliver faster
The organized manager
Has control of everything at the restaurant;
Organize lists of several suppliers and secondary choices in spreadsheets;
Has a proper inventory management routine;
Divides the operational work properly among the team;
It is rare to see any product out of stock.
The old-school owner
Confident that he knows what he is doing;
More conservative for new technologies;
Does things manually;
Has a lot of experience managing the business but doesn't delegate work properly;
There are always more products in his inventory than it should be;
He doesn't trust his employees or suppliers.
With that clusters in mind, we created three fictional personas to represent them. We divided the canvas into two parts: one about the person behind the business, and the other about the restaurant and its operations.
It's important to note that the definition of gender, age, or demographic issues is less important because the information about patterns of behavior, personal preferences, and feelings deserves much more attention.
The first part of the canvas:
Approaching their characteristics, motivations, habits, influences, and fears.
The second part of the canvas:
Mentioning the business routine, relationship with suppliers, how they control their inventory, and if it already uses any software to control the operation.
Going deeper into the user's understanding, we condensed the analysis of how they perceive the world around them, creating an empathy map - observing their expectations and feelings.
Looking for the journey
From that point, we could draw the journey of inventory management. We started mapping the steps and relating them to the user's thoughts and emotions.
To illustrate the main steps of the user journey, we created a storyboard:
At that point, we understood the main issues related to the customer, their pains, frustrations, and needs. Thus, we were able to highlight the central design opportunities and format a clear value proposition to respond to the user's needs.
Easy and intuitive app
In response to the lack of good software alternatives on the market.
Automated inventory management
Solve the lack of time in face of other essential business activities.
Offer quick access to several alternatives, encouraging good services.
Bring the community together, increasing bargaining power in relation to suppliers.
Unique Value Proposition
Be the partner of the small restaurant as a simple and intuitive application that provides more bold choices of suppliers and better inventory management.
Outcomes & next steps
Paola is still under construction. But this exploratory research brought several insights about the user and how to really generate value for them - acting on their real problems. A deeper understanding of the user allows us to develop more assertive and innovative solutions.
Leading the research efforts allowed me to exercise many aspects of the disciplines like user research, market analysis, and also analytical skills to carve up complex problems.
In the course of this work, we got in touch with more than 30 customers (until now) and generated more than 500 insights. We also produced more than 50 files of analysis, compilation, and guidance. This illustrates the dense and rich research work that will undoubtedly contribute to developing a great product.