Have you watched the show BarRescue? It resonated with me since I was a former bartender and now user experience designer. There are so many comparisons to be drawn when creating customer experiences in a bar and digital user experiences.
Bar Rescue features the boisterous and successful bar consultant Jon Taffer and his team of top chefs, mixologists, interior designers and other experts The premise of the show is to renovate and transform failing bars into successful bars. They do this by diagnosing problems and using methods and tactics similar to the user experience process.
In this article, we will cover these similarities in three phases—Discovery, Definition and Design.
Jon would begin his operation by agreeing with the business owner to install hidden surveillance cameras in the bar to document the problems with operations, behavioral problems or delays with customer service.
Frequently, user experience designers also discover business problems through a variety of research methods including contextual inquiry or other observational methods.
Jon and his team would then tour the facilities finding things like unsanitary kitchens, health code violations, unappealing food or beverages and other things that were detrimental to the business.
UX designers can also document knownproblems, as well as uncover problems that the business may not be aware of. It’s also common to perform a heuristic evaluation to identify problems and determine how an existing digital experience might be improved.
When evaluating businesses, Jon’s team would sometimes weigh liquor bottles before and after a work shift to determine the amount of over pouring occurring. He also used bacteria devices to measure the amount of bacteria on kitchen surfaces.
It’s also a common practice to evaluate website and app analytics to understand and optimize usage. Analytics can lend insights into key performance indicators including volume of sales, conversion rates and other metrics.
Jon and his team would always meet business owners and staff to review his findings and discuss the challenges they need to solve.
It’s critical that business stakeholders also meet with user experience designers to discuss pain points and ultimately determine how to solve and prioritize the business problems.
Jon would frequently review customer reviews of the bars through Yelp or other review sites to get documented, honest feedback. Jon would also send in individuals to each bar to document and verify their customer experience. In other cases, Jon provided mobile apps to customers to provide their ratings on the service, food and beverages. This customer feedback was reviewed prior to the bar makeover and after to help measure the results.
It’s a best practice to communicate with the end users by performing user interviews, providing surveys, or performing other user research methods to learn more from the end-users before and after product deployment.
A primary part of Jon’s customer research is to understand the demographics, interests, desires and income of the people from the surrounding neighborhoods. It was common for failing bars to alienate their audiences or not market to the primary audiences. Even small changes to the business had a great impact for new customers.
A critical part of designing your digital experience is to perform user research. This research helps define all of the different types of users, their unique goals, needs, behaviors, reservations, desires and how and when they will use your digital product.
In order to further solve their problems, Jon identifies the competitive bars and restaurants in the neighborhood to determine how the business can develop a P.O.D. (Point of Difference) to have a competitive edge.
In user experience, a competitive analysis can identify competitors, their offerings and understand how your business can highlight your competitive advantages.
Jon would also create floor plans to develop structure and help maximize the potential for each room.
User experience designers also create sitemaps to provide high-level visualization of the hierarchy and the relationship between content.
As a part of his blueprints, Jon considers the “flow pattern” of every room. This flow can increase customer interaction, increase efficiency and ultimately boost sales.
User experience designers also create user flows and process flows to further document how users will use a digital product within the system and how it may interface with other non-digital experiences.
Food and beverages are the heart of the restaurant and bar experience. In most cases, the struggling bars didn’t cater to their audiences or the menu items were bland. Sometimes drinks were limited and unappealing. Customers also had to wait long periods of time for servers and bartenders.
With your app or website, your content is what people consume. Users want quality content that quickly serves their needs and desires. If it’s a struggle to find content – just like it is difficult to find your waiter – then people will not hesitate to leave and never come back.
According to Bar Rescue, when customers read a menu for longer than 109 seconds, they become fatigued and order less.
Some restaurants used gimmicks that were counter-productive. For example:
• An unused mechanical bull was an eye sore.
• A lobster claw machine offended customers.
• A golf simulator was unused by customers since they came to a bar to relax.
• A punching bag boxing game even left a customer with abloody hand and a business lawsuit.
All of these things initially sounded like fun, but they took up valuable space and ended up costing businesses big money.
It’s common for clients to request website redesigns to make it more “engaging” or “interactive.” However, interactivity alone doesn’t solve problems. The interactions and tactics must be useful, valuable, and help support user goals. See my article Trends May Not Be Your Friends for more insight on a strategies first approach.
Jon’s team also had customers evaluate menu effectiveness with retinal eye tracking software and hardware. In one episode, customers’ eyes went to the least profitable items on the menu, causing lower profitability.
A part of usability testing may include eye-tracking to help determine if users are successfully using an application or if they were fixated or distracted. Other research methods may be more appropriate depending on the project. The fact is that the science of usability and research matters to the quality of your product.
Once Jon and his team helped the business make adjustments to the menu and properly train the staff, they conducted a “stress test” to determine how the staff would perform and then make further adjustments.
In user experience we create prototypes, perform usability testing, QA testing and other testing before launching an app or website. These tests help collect valuable information and help determine adjustments to be implemented prior to launch.
Many of the struggling bars had unappealing, dated décor, worn booths or had themes that alienated customers. One restaurant looked like an auto shop from the outside, which confused customers or made them ignore it entirely. Jon’s signage and interior design teams helped businesses create signage with images of foods with bold text to clearly and quickly communicate with customers.
Websites and apps also must be visually appealing and appropriate for the audience. It’s important to quickly communicate your company services and products within seconds. Users may quickly abandon your app or website if it doesn’t communicate or look professionally designed. Your digital experience should consider all aesthetic aspects including the branding, content, subject matter, typography, photography, iconography, animation, transitions, spacing and other visual considerations that improve the experience.
At the end of every episode of Bar Rescue, the restaurants had been transformed, customers were happier and they revealed the business results. Results included statistics like “Food sales were up 30%” or other measurements that impacted the business bottom line.
It’s also critical to measure the success of your digital product. It’s important to not just measure the number of click-throughs or time spent on a website, but to track key performance indicators and metrics that impact the business. Did sales increase? Did the product help manage costs? Did the software create greater efficiency and less time spent performing the same activities? If you focus on business measurement as a goal, you are more likely to reach that goal.
Success doesn’t just happen by mistake. It happens from planning, communication, developing strategies, discovery, testing, tracking and other factors to create direction and ultimately success for users and the business. If it’s good enough for a bar or restaurant, it’s hopefully good enough for improving your digital product.