Blog: Field Observation and Embedding Digital Augmentation in Panera Bread Cafe
Objective: Conduct an hour of field observation understanding the task flow analysis of Panera servers and to brainstorm recommendations of how digital augmentation can be incorporated in this process.
UX Method: Observation
Date: January 12, 2012
Time: 8:00 – 9:00 am
Location: Panera Bread Cafe
SCOPE OF OBSERVATION
One hour of observation was spent at Panera Bread Café to better understand how digital augmentation can be incorporated in the process of food ordering, payment, restocking, and how Panera staff interacts with their customer. A quiet location near the cash registry was picked to perform this observation. This location was specifically selected, because it allows me to hear what has been ordered, thereby giving the context of each interaction between the server and the customer. This location was located near the entrance, where it also allows me to observe the traffic of customers and their reaction prior to ordering.
The objective of this observation was to investigate the kinds of tasks that a Panera server performed and to observe some of the difficulty they may encounter. This observation was performed in the morning, where roughly 80% of the customer sales are for to-go. This time period was specifically isolated to identify patterns for to-go orders.
TASKS THAT SERVERS ATTENDED TO
There are several tasks that a Panera staff attends to at the cashier: giving an initial pitch to their customers, attending orders, retrieving orders, asking for Panera membership card, and handling the payment. Other task that needs to be performed simultaneously includes restocking bakery items and refilling the coffee at self-serving stands.
A scenario of a two server shift at the cashier was observed. The main target user will be the server attending to the cashier. The server needs to attend to each customer’s needs, while performing other errands and tasks when no customers are present.
PATTERNS OBSERVED AND RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Each server attends to the need of one customer until payment is being received. This work flow demands the server to perform each component of the task sequentially until the order is completed. This imposes several redundancies in the task and can become time-consuming before the order is complicated. For instance, when the server goes and retrieves an order, the customer will be left waiting before the server can proceed to the next component of the task. A lot of time is spent walking to the designated area to perform the task, such as retrieving a bakery item.
RECOMMENDATION: One of the issues of the one-server-per-customer model is that servers may need to walk back and forth for each service. Another issue is the redundancy of the task. For example, during a more complicated order such as ordering a dozen bagels, the server will be spending most of his time at the bagel stand retrieving the order. However, the other server could have a short order of retrieving one bagel. The server will need to walk over, while it would be much easier for the other server to bring over that bagel, while the server with the short-order can proceed to payment. This could reduce the time for the server with the short-order, and will not demand too much time of the server with the longer order in this scenario. Thus, one recommendation that can be worth exploring is to examine how to incorporate division of task and in eliminating redundant task completion between servers.
2. Short orders are performed more efficiently. A short order usually consists of a simple order of coffee or a quick retrieval of a bakery item. These orders are performed efficiently, where all the server need to do is retrieve an item or give a coffee cup to the customer, where they can serve themselves at the coffee stand. However, during line-up, all customers with different orders are lined up. After completing an order, each server will ring up the next customer by pitching out, “I can help somebody here.” Customers hesitate for a second before approaching the server, where valuable time is wasted.
RECOMMENDATION: Dividing customers based on the type of order can hugely increase the efficiency. It will be much more useful for one server to be able to ring up five customers with short orders and to minimize the line-up. This can help make the waiting line shorter, so that customers will not be discouraged by a long line when they enter the store.
3. When there are no customers, servers will be running other errands in the kitchen space or out on the floor; however, approaching customers may not be noticed and will not be attended. As noted previously, some of the other tasks that server need to attend to includes running errands such as refilling bakery items and attending to the self-serving coffee stands. During these times, servers are not present at the cashier, therefore when a new customer approaches the cashier, servers may not respond in time, leaving customers waiting.
RECOMMENDATION: Servers should be able to know when there are new customers when they are attending to other tasks. This has often been accomplished by a feedback system incorporated with the door by a ringing tone. However, these can be intrusive and annoying to hear, where everybody in the shop will know when a new customer has entered.
DIGITAL AUGMENTATION AND DESIGN IDEAS
During the hour long observation, a total of 53 customers were attended. Within the 53 customers, 20 of the order were identified as short orders, which are defined as a quick to-go order that consists of either a coffee or at most a pastry to go along with it. A design idea is to change the work processes, where one server can attend to all customers with short order by an “Express Lane.” At times when there are no short orders, the server can go and support the other server by retrieving the order, while the server proceed to adding rewards to the card and in filling in the payment. In terms of digital augmentation, this can be further assisted by an OpenCV people detection at the door in detecting new customers when they walk in the door, which can be hooked to a device the server can wear, potentially a watch. The device can vibrate, and servers can know when new customers entered the door when they are performing other errands or is not attending the cashier. The device can also show the order of the normal lane, where the supporting server can read off the orders without further verbal communication in distracting the main server. However, it is important to note that this is a design solution for a two server shift in a designated time period, which has its only specific routines, which can be different for other scenarios.
To see detailed design ideas, read Blog: Draw 6 sketches within 30 minutes on a design scenario.