Ordering Experience






I needed to use 3 methods (field study, interview, survey) to gain insights about a research topic. I chose to research the ordering experience in restaurants.


During a 10-week course, I spent 2 weeks planning, 6 weeks collecting data, and 2 weeks analyzing results. Each week I wrote up a 20-page report to get feedback from my TA.


I wanted to understand user behaviors and needs, pinpoint key problems, communicate key findings, and suggest potential design improvements.






Data collection

I conducted 3 one-hour long observation sessions in 3 different restaurants and recorded both qualitative and quantitative data on laptop when blending in as a customer.






Data Analysis

I used Google Keep for the affinity diagram and I marked notes from different restaurants in different colors to provide context.





Key findings

Someone is usually more knowledgeable about the restaurant.

The waiter or the waitress plays an important role in ordering.

Being in a small or big group may or may not make a difference in ordering.






Data Collection

I piloted the interview questions and adjusted them to encourage more storytelling from the participants. Then I conducted 4 phone interviews including 1 food service worker and 3 customers.

Data Analysis

I transcribed all the recordings into interview notes. Then, I analyzed all the interview notes by using affinity diagram in Google Keep.

Key findings

The purpose of the dining affects the ordering process dramatically.

Familiarity with the food significantly influences ordering process.

Customer service plays an unexpectedly crucial role in ordering and restaurant experience.







Data Collection

The survey was divided into 2 sections: one for servers and the other for waiting staff. It received 23 online responses in total including 20 eaters and 3 waiting staff.

Data Analysis

I converted answers into numbers (such as “always” to “5” and “never” to “1”) and used Excel to find correlations among answers for different questions.




Key Finding 1

When people eat out for different purposes, the interaction with and expectations towards the waiting staff vary.

Key Finding 2

When people eat out less frequently, they are more likely to rely on other resources to help them pick dishes besides asking recommendations from the waiting staff.

Key Finding 3

When people eat out less frequently, they rely more on different ways such as Yelp, local events as well as social media to find out about restaurants.




Finding 1

The waiting staff are very important in improving the ordering process and restaurant experience.

Finding 2

The frequency of dining out affects the ordering both before and after the dining dramatically.

Finding 3

The purpose of dining out affects interaction with the waiting staff and ordering process.








Suggestion 1

Customer service is an extremely important but most of the waiting staff did not receive abundant customer service training. Therefore, the restaurants should develop a training program specifically for customer service.







Suggestion 2

Restaurants should make the layout of the restaurants easier for the waiting staff to see what the customers are doing to enable more frequent check-ins and faster ordering.





Suggestion 3

People who eat out less often are more likely to find restaurants and pick dishes using different platforms etc. Therefore, the restaurants should brand the restaurants on various platforms to ease the research process before dining, smoothen the ordering process, and attract new customers.






Interview skills

Interviewing is really a strong soft skill that takes a ton of time and practice to develop.

Research methods

The structure of the research enhanced my understandings towards how different research methods build upon one another to gain more insights.

Writing as a helpful tool

Writing is very useful because it helps me to organize thoughts and condenses all the complicated results into key findings that will shape future design.