Sunday, 10 May 2015

(Good) process, (bad) interface - A very Italian food experience

We Italians do love food and are surrounded by many different types of food experience.
Recently, especially in shopping malls, the fast has merged with the delicious, and you can eat restaurant-like dishes in few minutes with a self-service approach.

I partcularly like Il lupo (the wolf), where you can taste home-made pasta, grilled meat and cured meats from Tuscany.

It's quite simple. You go to the counter and place your order. They give you as many tickets as the sectors you need to visit to get what you bought: one ticket for the first courses, one for the second ones and one for bread and single courses.

The sectors are tagged by elegant signs, but there's no real indication of where one sector ends and the other begins and, above all, there's no indication of where the line to ask for your dishes starts.
And you see, we Italians do have some problems with queues. We tend to love scrums (not the agile ones, though) and disregard lines.
So it happens that you line up in front of the guy who is cooking and taking the orders, wait for a while, and then you are kindly informed that you have to start it over 5 steps on the left. Right there, where the screaming crowd of people who has just left the counter is running. So you end up a bit angry, and a lot hungry. Or, at least, I do. And the guy who is cooking gets uncomfortable and stressed.

The experience is quite wearing, yet the process does work: the guy takes the orders for the grilled meat and then passes the client on to the guy who prepares the side dishes. No room for missing things or confusion, and all runs quickly enough.

Yet the process is not properly delivered to "users", who get few clues on how they have to move in space in order to do the right thing at the right time. A better interface design, for instance a clear sign "the line for second courses starts HERE" couldn't be ignored even by us Italians, and would make things better for all the actors of the process.

A more automated process could work even better; for instance, a queue based on the numbering of tickets for each sector, supported by a board showing "now serving #13".

Anyway, no matter how hard the process can be, if you stumble on one of the restaurants Il lupo, just stop by and eat: it is worth it. And after reading this, you do know where the line starts. 
Buon appetito!