We Should Look to the Restaurant Industry for Better UX
TL;DR: We should start looking to seemingly dissimilar industries in order to learn and share better UX practices. The restaurant industry is a great place to start.
I recently had a great conversation with a friend who is considering a new career in UX design.
We have been meeting over the past few months to discuss opportunities in the field. Like many people our age, she started out pursuing one specific path (music therapy) and eventually realized she was looking for more a career that included more opportunity.
During our most recent conversation over drinks, my friend shared her thoughts on her new online User Experience Design course from General Assembly (GA). In case you’re not familiar with GA, it is a New York-based company that offers training in tech, data, design, business, and other relevant industries. It’s one of many alternative learning opportunities for people who are looking to gain applicable skills for the future.
She proceeded to tell me why she would make such a great UX designer:
- She considers herself to be openminded and empathetic towards others
- She has a knack for tapping into both the creative and the pragmatic parts of her mind when solving a problem
- She is fascinated by making processes and systems more efficient
- She enjoyed her time working as a hostess back in college
I’ll admit; I was a little confused by this last point. After all, when I think of working in a restaurant, UX design is not the first thing that comes to mind.
Boy was I wrong.
She explained that as a hostess, she dealt with many major UX considerations:
1. Providing a high level of customer experience
In my mind, this was the easiest parallel to connect. Both industries involve close attention to detail in regards to the customer’s experience.
At a restaurant, the goal of the customer is fairly straightforward: they are hungry or thirsty and want to relax while grabbing something to eat or drink.
In the field of UX design, the main goal is to solve the problems of people and organizations while improving the experience for everyone involved. No matter what the goal is, both industries require the ability to consider the feelings and motivations of others.
2. Managing the expectations of several parties
As a hostess, my friend had no choice but to keep everyone satisfied, including managers, servers, and most importantly, the customers. After all, in most restaurants, the “customer always comes first.”
Do these people sound familiar? They should:
Managers = Decision makers (CEOs, Presidents, etc.)
Servers = Employees
Customers = Users
While seating customers as quickly as possible, she also had to consider the availability of each server. If she sat a customer in a section that was already slammed, she almost guaranteed a worse experience for both the customer and the server.
Furthermore, the manager always had their agenda to consider, usually informed by people above them. As my friend reminded me, this interdependent, hierarchical structure always plays a part when solving any organizational UX problem.
3. Creating and iterating user flows in order to see the full picture
Another, less apparent connection included one of her main activities at the hostess stand: creating and updating seating charts. While greeting customers as they came in, she was responsible for adapting seating arrangements quickly in order to give her guests the best experience possible.
If you think about it, these seating arrangements are eerily similar to user flows. Both involve a visual diagram meant to communicate necessary information to the viewer as quickly as possible, both illustrate where key actions take place for the user, and both require up-to-date iteration.