In this final Ironhack challenge, I spent 3.5 weeks researching the needs of independent chefs and developing a mobile inventory tracking tool.
To conclude the past five months of UX/UI effort at Ironhack Amsterdam, I was given a final (short) month to complete a full cycle of the design thinking process. The challenge was to find a user group, discover a need, and work to solve it with a digital product.
The project requirements were:
- a high-fidelity prototype, complete with original illustrations and icons
- UX research
- evidence of iterations and testing
- a elementary business model
The final solution would be evaluated based on my presentation (20 minutes + questions), problem exploration, application of the user-centered design process, functionality, and usability.
I started this project with the question, “Who do I want to help?”
There were a few options that came to mind… New parents. Friends on the autism spectrum. Artists seeking galleries. A world just beginning to confront Covid19. But one group stood out, pulled on my heartstrings.
See that little cutie up on the table? That’s me. I grew up in a restaurant, love cooking, and for many years made my living in the hospitality industry. It felt right to give back to the community that raised me.
With the target group decided upon, I launched into the interview phase. I accessed my old colleagues via Facebook and Whatsapp, and set up six interviews. The first three interviews were totally open-ended. My original assumption was that the restaurant stage system could be an area where a digital tool would be useful, but I wasn’t tied to this idea. The interview guide had a broad list of questions to hit, ranging from hiring practices, to keeping up with old coworkers, to how the chefs had entered the industry. Whenever I asked how the industry might modernize, a common complaint surfaced: how much time chefs seemed to waste doing inventory.
With a potential pattern occurring, I adjusted the interview questions to poke more specifically at inventory methods and the why’s behind it. My next three interviews were fruitful, turning up juicy quotes like,
“Chefs burn out because they don’t do the paperwork efficiently. They get less efficient and more pissed.”
“I wish someone would come in and change the system! But no one we hire has the skill set.”
“ It happens on pad and paper.”
My interviews had turned up a major lead. It was time to confirm with the masses. Using a lean survey canvas, I constructed a survey to either confirm or deny my assumption that restaurants’ inventory systems should be improved. I asked my interviewees to share it with their workplace, but results were slow in coming in. Turning to the internet, I joined culinary groups across Facebook and stalked professional message boards, looking for a place that allowed surveys.
I hit a goldmine on Reddit, particularly with the r/Chefit community — a group specifically for professional chefs (and now me!)
Over 160 friendly Reddit souls contributed to my survey, and many went above and beyond by commenting their personal experiences and offering up past experiences with other software systems (more on that later.)
Below, you can see some of the key takeaways from the survey.
- Most chefs conducted inventory through a combination of pen and paper and a spreadsheet with formulas for costing, expected loss, and unit conversions (just to name a few) built in.
- 30% use pen and paper, 21% use Excel, and 19% use a combination. There is a broad slice of uncommon combinations or write-in options visible in the graph (top right), these represent users who are combining multiple tools in order to perform the job.
- Check out the bottom left corner — 19% of the respondents spend over ten hours a month on inventory management each month.
- The majority spent between 2–4 hours each month, which still adds up to a painful amount of time when you consider inventory is typically done after hours, by the head chef — typically the most overworked person on payroll.