Where do all the leftovers go?!

Below is a glimpse of what Julia and I researched on for Lauren’s design research & synthesis class. The central topic we were given was recycling. But as you see from my classmates’ blog posts, we all went on different route for our research topics, ranging from farmers’ market, to community bike shops, to water reuse at restaurants.

How it all started: Julia, new to Austin from Paris, experienced culture shock when she saw the massive amount of food available at these gigantic supermarkets that we have here in the US. Julia asked Ruby: “where does all the food go at the end of the day if they’re not sold?!” Ruby responded: “No idea. But hey, let’s do our research on that and find out!”

Our challenges: Scheduling for our contextual inquiries and participatory interviews was a bit of a nightmare. Also given the fact that our research touches on business practices only made it that much harder. We had to change our plans a few times but in the end it all came together. Our research participants also seemed to have enjoy the [prime, dream, create] exercises.

Our epiphany moment: Based on our previous conversations with some individuals, we were led down the path of thinking that good food management system is for a supermarket to reuse their food as much as possible. We also simplistically viewed the world as a matter of right vs. wrong: compost program = good practice, no compost program = bad practice. But as we spoke with more people who work at the front of house, dealing with the food and interacting with customers, we slowly reframed our questions. Instead of thinking about reuse and recycle, the bigger opportunity actually lies in reducing the amount of food unsold.

Synthesis and design criteria: Synthesizing the enormous amount of data we gathered was not an easy task. Tagging the quotes, grouping our notes, drawing them out in work models, recombining insights in concept models = many hours of work. After all the synthesis, it became apparent that the two key strategies that could lead to less leftover is being able to forecast demand better and improve internal communication workflow.

To protect individual’s confidentiality, here’s a slightly modified version of our final presentation:

[slideshare id=5573760&doc=idseresearchfinalforweb-101026222952-phpapp01]