The COVID-19 pandemic and shifting human behaviors are altering the restaurant industry. To understand the impact, we surveyed and interviewed eight food business owners and leaders about their experience operating essential small businesses in an industry we're professionally familiar with.
Initially, we hypothesized that a food service operation's success relied on health permitting, food safety, and the knowledge to execute these standards before owners ran out of funds. However, our research didn't support this premise. Instead, the most significant challenge was that food business owners required a reliable, cost-effective way to connect with expert talent quickly.
Various research methods including surveys, in-depth interviews, secondary analyses of government records, academic journals, and market research were employed to broaden our understanding. Persona development and empathy, mind, and journey mapping followed to delve deeper into the nuances of our target audience. This new insight helped reframe the problem: "How might we inspire trust between food business owners and employees?" Ultimately, designing an effective solution required tapping into grassroots movements to provide a quick, low-cost, and status quo disrupting alternative to address food business owners' most pressing concerns.
Navigating the challenges presented by the pandemic required adapting our strategy and design process to accommodate remote collaboration, virtual testing, and iterative development. The refined concept is a platform that connects food business owners with expert talent, facilitating trust-building, and mutually beneficial relationships. It's a seamless experience for users that allows them to access a pool of vetted professionals to help them navigate the combined challenge presented by the pandemic and changing human behavior.