I Missed Eating Out With Friends So Much I Did a Design Exercise to Cope

I Missed Eating Out With Friends So Much I Did a Design Exercise to Cope

Samgyeopsal grease may be a better social lubricant than beer, but I’m getting ahead of myself. It’s been around 150 days since I last ate out with friends.

A Brief Background

I don’t remember what my friends and I were laughing about in that Korean barbecue restaurant back in March, but I remember being happy. The thick scent and crackling sound of sizzling meat is as much a feast for the senses as it is for the belly — and it gets even more satisfying when you grill it for someone else. Samgyeopsal grease may be a better social lubricant than beer, but I’m getting ahead of myself. It’s been around 150 days since I last ate out with friends.

Since the quarantine began, I’ve been living mainly off of home-cooked food and delivery services. Honestly? It really isn’t that bad. Grab (that Singapore-based transport app that provides a bunch of services from ride-hailing to same day deliveries) has been a particularly huge help, given that going around is so much more difficult here in the Philippines.

Two weeks ago, my parents scheduled a video call with their friends over dinnertime. They had Chinese food delivered one evening, which wasn’t at all unusual. That is, until their friends started popping into frame with identical plates of sweet-and-sour pork and honey garlic spare ribs at the table. We ate the same meals with our families over call. It was strangely endearing. Even if there weren’t any titos or titas at our literal dining table, this feeling came pretty close.

I wanted to see if I could bake that feeling into a Grab App feature. How can I recreate the magic of communal dining within the confines of my own home?


Why this could exist

  • 🤝 Companionship: Being able to craft a shared dining experience in quarantine could give people a semblance of unity and spark some joy.
  • 💵 Value: A shared dining order can provide individuals the same benefits and discounts of available large value meals from a restaurant.
  • 💰 Business: Crafting an avenue for people to celebrate meaningful occasions from home can stimulate food businesses that lost work during the pandemic. Catering businesses that were blindsided by the cancellation of most communal events can service online parties instead.
  • 🎉 Fun: It’s just fun!

Research

My research consisted of interviews and conversations with family and friends. This led me to three important insights:

  1. People enjoy gifting food to other people. It’s a great and personal way to make your presence felt in spite of distance.

  2. Food often accompanies other activities. (E.g. friends often either go out to lunch before catching a movie, or go out to dinner after to talk about it.)

  3. People who want to eat out for the sake of company prioritize inviting people together before deciding what to eat.

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I was able to cobble together an extremely simple task flow diagram that captured most of my interviewees’ thought processes while deciding where or what to eat. One thing I wanted to keep in mind was that the process of forming a group frequently came before deciding on the food itself. Deciding on how to split the bill also happened while initially gathering the group or after settling at the restaurant.

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I sketched a user flow for the proposed UI (user interface). I maintained the food selection flow to be mostly identical to the existing Grab Food ordering process to reduce the need for users to learn the flow all over again. On top of that existing process, I created three unique screens: 1.) the new party screen, 2.) the invite list, and 3.) the party tracker.

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