Following the Journey of a Chicken Wing (and calling it User Research)

I’ve spent a fair amount of time over the last few years building tech in the restaurant industry. Enhancing operational efficiencies in the kitchen, refining the process of ordering and receiving food, and so on.

I wanted to share an example of some research I did. It was scrappy, unconventional, and probably broke a few of those UX Laws.

I’m not sharing it as a method per se, but rather as an example of going off-script, using the resources at hand, and doing whatever it takes to get the information needed.

In this case, I focused on something other than the user with the goal of understanding the user behavior by proxy.

That thing was chicken wings.

The Problem

To provide some context, here was the issue I was trying to solve: A reliance on 3rd-party platforms for a new off-premise restaurant brand meant there was no visibility into their low ratings and high refund requests. I needed to identify specific problem areas to take action for improving the end-customer experience.

I decided to focus in on wings. Why?

  1. Wings were a best seller and crucial to fix.
  2. Given time constraints, I wanted reliable and raw answers without fear of blame for why things had been going awry. Asking about behavior can be more abstract, emotionally tied, and requires reflection on one’s own actions and motivations. Asking about a tangible object like a chicken wing, I surmised, would allow more straightforward conversations.

I Talked to Everyone Along the Journey

From the C-suite to the frontline. The COO.

Kitchen staff.

Product team. Delivery drivers. Chefs.

Customer service agents.

And I uncovered some gems.

From the Kitchen:

“We’re supposed to flash freeze the wings to maintain flavor, but don’t have the right equipment. I just assumed there was no budget for it”

“The chicken seemed bland, so I usually add more spice”

“The recipe got raw chicken juice on it, so we threw it out”

From the Customer Service Team:

“We have all the logs from customers calling. We’d love to share them-nobody has ever asked before!”

Results: cluckin’ great.

Once every touchpoint was explored, I invited everyone to a workshop. Within that hour, silos of communication were broken and action plans were put into place.

  • Awareness of equipment needs resulted in their prompt and decisive purchase.
  • No more winging recipes. A quick, digital training solution was prioritized!
  • Customer service team empowered to better resolve customer concerns…And their data was acknowledged as an invaluable resource.

The results led to more accurate, consistent orders for a better overall customer experience. Following the journey of the chicken wing helped overcome communication barriers, identify process gaps, and empower teams to perform at their best.

Whats the most out-of-the-box way you’ve explored an issue (and still called it UX research?)

Read the full article here

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