Guest Blog | Porter
We’ve all had those moments where digital tools were brought in for “convenience” — contactless check-in kiosks, smart TVs, digital menus — but end up being more frustrating than convenient. Instead of making life easier for your reduced staff, now they have to troubleshoot IT problems. And guests who were previously known by name are suddenly made to feel anonymous.
Technology that isn’t elevating human experiences is compounding the problems we face in hospitality. That is because most digital tools have been designed to solve a financial problem, rather than trying to both solve a financial problem AND elevate the guest experience in the process. This has been especially true of the many attempts to streamline and digitize food and beverage experiences.
When we set out to design Porter, a digital F&B platform to elevate the guest experience at food halls, restaurants, and multi-vendor establishments, we followed a design thinking process that you can practice whenever you consider adding a new digital tool or are thinking of rolling out a new service. Here are the stages of the design thinking process:
First, you need to sit in the seat of the person who will be using this tool / service / experience. You don’t start with defining what you are building. You don’t start with financial implications. You start by observing the guest experience and determining how you can improve it.
New tools need to work, but they also need to elevate how we feel about an experience. By building prototypes and watching guests interact with them — physically and digitally watching them — we are able to not only see how those prototypes work, but also how they make guests feel. We pay attention to what they say to their friends across the table. We can refine later and make our new tool more elegant, but for now we just want to see if it will truly solve a problem before we invest time and resources in a solution.
When we design to elevate a guest experience, we take that empathetic foundation and the lessons learned while prototyping, and we then design a moment that frictionlessly folds into the human experiences we are trying to improve. If we can make a guest’s experience feel smoother, more personal, and more memorable than it previously felt, then we have a successful design. If not, we need to go back to prototyping.
Once we build a useful tool or service, we can enjoy and celebrate for five minutes, but then we get back to work. We go back to watching, identifying where hangups happen, and discover where the frustrations occur. And then we evolve, because the world keeps moving forward and our tools and services need to adapt to those changes lest they end up becoming another clunky experience.
Pulling it All Together
If you’re not familiar with design thinking, it is the process that is essentially outlined above, and it was the framework that we utilized to build Porter. As owners of three food halls, we wanted to solve one main problem: long lines. We watched as people would spend the first 10 minutes standing in multiple lines rather than with the people they came to be with. And before ordering a second round, they would again look to see how long the lines were before deciding whether it was worth leaving their friends and standing in line again.
These observations formed the empathy that we used to build some digital prototypes to test at one location. First we built a digital re-ordering tool for patrons who had already opened a tab. This first prototype was designed to simply see if patrons would use technology to solve the long line problem. And they did! The average number of rounds jumped to 3.4 rounds per tab.
We had empathetically observed, built a prototype, designed the tool, and then went back to evolve as we learned more. Next we added the ability to preauthorize a card so guests could order from multiple vendors on one tab. Then we added the ability to create an account and store payment information. Today, average tickets are up 20%, tips are up 15%, 50% of our patrons use Porter to order, and our staff save 50 seconds per order placed digitally through Porter as compared to orders placed at the counter.
We continued to observe, prototype, design, and evolve the tool at our three halls until we decided it was a tool that was worth sharing with others who were looking to elevate the F&B experience at their food halls, breweries, and venues. Anywhere that offers F&B, values efficiency, but is also looking to elevate the guest experience can now use Porter — which all started with a simple observation and a desire to solve a problem for our guests.
So what problem are you looking to solve? | Bryan Taylor, Co-founder at Porter