Food & Hospitality + complex ui + Operations

AI Solution to Scaling Human Insights

How does a company scale consulting services in the fast food operations space?

There are hundreds of thousands of fast food (or QSR) restaurants in the US, and many thousands of owner-operators are responsible for multiple restaurants. These restaurant owners live in a world where they have to almost simultaneously think small (“How many gallons of hand soap do I need to order for next month?”) and think large (“Why is this location’s sales number off by 10% this month?”). Even for those QSRs which are franchised and may have a general playbook of best practices, day-to-day success is going to come from insights gleaned from reams of data.

Our client was a unique player in the food space. Run by a group of former leaders from one of the largest fast-food chains in the world, they have unique insight into how to run a restaurant. Their challenge to us was to imagine how their knowledge and experience could be scaled and translated into a digital product. They envisioned a product that could operate similarly to their human consultants, helping restaurant owners improve their efficiency and profitability by analyzing operational data and making suggestions as to where owners should spend their time to improve their restaurants’ performance.

We deeply immersed ourselves in the details of running a restaurant, including detailed research on existing products and services that restaurant operators use and several qualitative sessions with restaurant owners to discover where their needs were going unmet. We worked closely with the experts at our client as well as their development partners to understand the data available to us, and we created a series of realistic prototypes we tested with owners to validate our concepts and test usability.

Key Questions

Who is our market?

Even within the category of QSRs, there were dozens of ways to divide up the group of potential customers for our product. Part of our initial research was to develop a hypothesis for the likely qualities of our users by several dimensions, including number of restaurants managed, years of experience, attitudes towards technology, and current workflow. This definition work helped us to define a strategy that was tailored to a specific group of likely users.

What technology & functionality should this product use?

Modern restaurants generate huge amounts of data through various systems like point-of-sale, inventory tracking and staff management. Although we wanted the ultimate product to consume and process data from a variety of sources, it was obvious that defining an MVP that would use data from many different systems was untenable. We spent a lot of time with our development partner to understand our current technical capabilities. With them, we developed a point-of-view on how we could use those capabilities to make a product that would serve our users now, while developing a strategy and roadmap for future, more-inclusive releases. We included development in research discussions and design workshops, so we were able to have clear, open conversations about them when current capabilities were insufficient to deliver for our users.

What does this product look like?

It wasn’t clear to us at the start of our effort that we were designing an app or website; for a while we considered a voice UI application. Through our interviews with restaurant owners, we defined some likely points in their day-to-day experience where support would be needed, which helped us to make a channel decision. With that decided, we explored and then resolved a dashboard-style web application that balanced information density with scanability. The product we ultimately delivered immediately tells users which information is most important to react to, and then allows them to dig deeper for additional analysis to satisfy research or browsing modes.

AI Solution to Scaling Human Insights
The Project Numbers

Fast-casual stores represented in research


Product decisions made

“The team was able to engage in the up front design process with detailed organization, took learnings from testing opportunities to insert into product capabilities and executed our prototypes quickly. Grand Studio was inclusive and engaged - made it feel as if we were all one team.”

-- Our client, the Head of Technology