EasyEat: Choosing Where to Eat in Less Than 5 Minutes

by Wendy Yu

We’ve all faced the dilemma: where to eat, what to eat? Let’s imagine the user experience of lunchtime in Harvard Square. You’ve got the whole gamut at your fingertips: Clover, Tatte, Otto, sweetgreen, Tasty Burger. Perhaps you’re vegetarian or gluten-free, which might constrain your options. And maybe you hold certain values around seasonality and locality. You reconfigure your options. Parsnip or Harvest? Whole Heart Provisions or Wholesome Fresh? And maybe you’ve got a bit of a sweet tooth, and you would like to polish it off with dessert. Ben and Jerry’s or Amorino: Gelato al Naturale? Perhaps something a bit fresh and modern. Blackbird Doughnuts or Milk Bar?

Yet perhaps you’re not a student or resident, but a visitor of Harvard Square. What do the plates offered by those restaurants look like anyway? You’re simply taking a chance. It doesn’t help that you’re already 15 minutes into a google search on top of that.

Envision a gamified, viscerally visual search experience. Introducing EasyEat.

EasyEat aims to simplify the restaurant search experience by introducing a visual exploration process. You can swipe right and swipe left on dining options in your area. First, after the short process of registration, users are requested to specify their dietary and taste preferences by filtering them on the platform. On EasyEat, you’re able to specify a budget, distance, ambiance, mood, wait time, and type of cuisine within a desired range. Carnivore? Check. Enthusiast of Indian and Greek? Check. Dining on a student budget? Check. Degree of Formality? Today, let’s go with fast casual.

Then, users are presented with a series of dining options circumscribed within their preferences on which they can swipe right or left. Because we as people often eat and make judgments with our eyes, our design team created an interface modeled after that seen on Pinterest. Each restaurant card displays a medley of classic dishes offered by the restaurant to give users a general taste and impression. You can tap on each image to zoom into the plate of interest. Each selected image then displays the name of the dish as well as its price and ingredients. You can also learn more about the nutritional content of each plate of interest. Once the selection of dish is approved, you make a reservation for the restaurant within the app, as well as export that reservation to a digital calendar or share it with friends. 

Let’s Swipe Right on Tatte, Shall We?

EasyEat also aims to digitize the physical menu to create a more visually appealing experience. The user can open the app to the choice restaurant card, swipe through 10 featured dishes, and select one to order. EasyEat provides a catered and refined list of menu options. This also gives a visual understanding of each dish beyond the text description. After their dining experience, users can leave reviews for the restaurant within the app that range from 1 to 5 stars. 

We created a persona to describe the journey of an EasyEat user. Take Sarah. Sarah is a 20-year-old college student at Harvard who typically eats out on weekends. She’s not a picky eater, but particularly likes Japanese, Chinese, and Mediterranean food. She has no allergies or dietary restrictions, but doesn’t eat cilantro and avoids lactose. She enjoys the atmosphere of higher-end restaurants and cocktail bars and doesn’t mind splurging once in a while, but likes to keep meals under $20 before tax and tip. Eating out is a social activity for her, so her ideal place is fun and lively with attentive service. Some of her favorite restaurants include Fuji, Spring Shabu Shabu, Committee, and Lolita. 

Previously, Sarah would search for a broad category like Japanese on Google or Yelp, and spend a lot of time looking through photos, reviews, and different options. Sometimes, she would need to filter restaurants based on allergies and dietary restrictions as well. While at the restaurant itself, she would spend a long time flipping through the menu, looking up photos online, and deciding what to order. Sarah would also observe tables at the restaurant to see what patrons were ordering, and estimate how much food to order and how big the plates were. These were further influenced by her hunger level.

With a download of EasyEat, Sarah is vastly simplifying the process of decision making. Our app helps people decide where and what to eat by embedding itself into users’ routines and learning from their past preferences, ultimately saving them time, reducing friction, and preventing decision fatigue.

EasyEat UX Journey Map

EasyEat targets several key behavioral design principles. Ultimately, the platform aims to ease the ability of choosing something to eat. When examined through BJ Fogg’s framework, EasyEat reduces the cognitive load and brain cycles involved in selecting a restaurant at which to eat. This platform eliminates the need of scrolling through Yelp and Google find a restaurant with great reviews. This can be a tiresome and time-consuming process. While such websites present an overwhelming array of options, your choice has been reduced to a more curated selection of dining options based on your previously specified tastes. On EasyEat, personalization is key. The platform allows users to filter relevant and preferred aspects of dining like budget, distance, ambiance, mood, type of cuisine, and the maximum desired wait time. You can easily circumscribe your choices to suit your wants and needs. 

EasyEat also introduces a vastly simplified process that minimizes the amount of time spent looking for something to eat, especially with a group of friends. The platform attempts to gamify the process of selecting a restaurant at which to eat. Dining with friends can be a difficult experience if not everyone is on the same page diet-wise and taste-wise. However, EasyEat presents a feature in which friends can assemble in-app groups and filter options that meet each party’s specified needs. If you’re out with friends, each person can take out EasyEat and sign into a group via an invitation received within the app. When all your friends have indicated their preferences, EasyEat will allow you to swipe right or left on a series of restaurant cards circumscribed to meet everyone’s tastes. Only the most-liked options that meet each party’s dietary needs will be displayed on the app. Additionally, this sprinkles a healthy dose of social proof to help users make decisions, which is among Cialdini’s key principles of influence. 

Ultimately, these factors amalgamate to ease the ability of choosing something to eat.

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Gabe Ziaukas March 2, 2020 - 3:05 pm

The amount of times I’m overwhelmed by food options is absurd. I often feel as though I’m forgetting an option…let alone trying to plan a meal out with my girlfriend–that’s hours worth of discussion and decision-making. I would love to feel my cognitive load lightened by maximizing the efficiency of the food-decision process through this product.

Tobias Haefele March 2, 2020 - 3:07 pm

Loving this!
Making selection based on meal rather than restaurant seems v cool. The things I am missing here are price, reviews and time of delivery – I wonder how that information could be integrated into this interface.
I love the omission of foodnames: I think its great to see it, otherwise people might not order “words” they dont know. I’d rather order something that looks delicious than a word. Exciting stuff!

Donagh Mahon March 2, 2020 - 3:46 pm

Love this idea and would definitely use something like this. Every once in a while I decide the dhall delicacies of the day aren’t something I feel like eating, however I am also broke. I think a good addition could be rather than a place suggestion you could it more specific by suggesting meals at places and their prices. Sometimes a restaurant rated as expensive has some menu options that are decently priced for the portion size. It would be great to get those options as well.

Vivian Zhou March 2, 2020 - 4:45 pm

I think Easy Eats implements simplicity in decision-making well. The visual presentation is both appealing and low effort/not too time intensive, and as we’ve mentioned before in class, there is something inherently satisfying about utilizing the swipe feature (like in Tinder) to make a decision about a choice. I think it would be interesting to be able to adjust for how many cards are presented, based on how detailed the user wants to be about their choice/how long they’re willing to spend on finding a location. In addition, often times the decision making process for finding a restaurant to eat at is bogged down significantly by a group — the more people are collectively trying to make a decision, the harder/slower it is. To that end, it would be interesting to see if and how something like Easy Eats could present a solution to this problem. For example, maybe you could create a group with those friends, everyone would swipe individually on the cards, and then you’d see what cards overlapped between everyone.

Wendy Yu March 2, 2020 - 6:39 pm

The group feature is actually exactly the next feature we wanted to implement!!

Wanxi Yang March 2, 2020 - 4:49 pm

I think it’s a great idea! While I don’t think it’s necessary to actually “gamify” the restaurant search process. Providing visuals instead of texts can provide a whole new experience. It also goes with the trend of having images instead of texts in general. I definitely have trouble when picking the restaurant I want to go. I found that visual-heavy mini-blogs are actually very helpful for recommendation food. So combining a limited text space (such as a heading) with the images can be more efficient when trying to present information. You might find inspirations from apps that do this that are not food-based. The swipe feature might be risky as a design choice. Personally, I feel I would lose a lot of control when I do not have access to the full list at the same time. It’s also not very efficient because previously I can skip the restaurant I don’t like without doing anything. Now I have to actively swipe.

Kate Travis March 2, 2020 - 6:53 pm

Tinder, but for food, is such a good idea! As the queen of indecisiveness, this would be super helpful for me in real life. I know another challenge people have is coordinating with a group as to where to go, so maybe if you went further with this, you could add a feature where everyone in a group could swipe on the same set of restaurants, and then it could show you what the most people “liked.” That way, everyone could have a say and you wouldn’t have the situation where one person decides for the rest of the group!

Nynika Jhaveri March 2, 2020 - 8:11 pm

I really enjoyed the clear, minimal aesthetic of the App that allows the food and dishes to speak for themselves. While Tatte as a restaurant really aligns with these visuals – I wonder how you would deal with restaurants that aren’t as necessarily photogenic? On the other hand, while I like that you have removed the endless Yelp-like reviews from the first list – maybe it could be nice to integrate the reviews (as ratings?) into the shortlisted restaurants? We can integrate our social networks – nearby friends and their preferences/ratings so as to make the final decision easier (that combines with liking, social proof, and authority)?

Malila Freeman March 2, 2020 - 10:36 pm

I LOVE the concept of this app and I think it would be so useful. My only concern is that oftentimes the restaurant that I am looking for depends a lot on my current mood and not so much my set preferences. For example, if I want yummy drinks but don’t care so much about the food itself, I’m going to look for a different restaurant than if I just want something quick for lunch. Therefore, I would recommend incorporating a “quick adjustment” feature or something of the sort that allows for the user to keep some of the same base preferences (such as allergies or food restrictions, as you mentioned) but is also customizable to their current mood and wishes.

Lucy Golub March 3, 2020 - 2:45 am

I think the app design that you’ve presented is visually very aesthetic and easy to use and understand. I feel like I’ve tried apps like this in the past that were unsuccessful because they were buggy, and yours presents an alternative that would be easier to use. I do question, though, the importance of aesthetic appeal of food. Many foods don’t “look” good, but they taste delicious (for example, photos of different types of curry don’t always translate as well as a photo of a cupcake). I wonder how you guys could mitigate this problem? Perhaps more details descriptions could be a solution.

Sally O'Keeffe March 3, 2020 - 3:57 am

I love the idea of showing what the food looks like. I personally often struggle to know if I want something or not if I can’t see what it looks like, so even in a restaurant I’ll go on their Instagram to try to find images of some of the meals. However, who is in charge of taking these aesthetically appealing photos? Is it the restaurant? If so, will you only include them if they provide photos because if so you might be missing out on several restaurants that may be popular and cheap but that lack photos or the means to take great photos. I also like the ability to put in dietary restrictions and allergies, but again I wonder if the restaurant is the one in charge of disclosing every single ingredient. But if you are able to get them to do that, this app would be SO useful and save me so much time if it existed!!!

Adam Gordon March 4, 2020 - 1:49 am

I don’t often get to see what different foods look like. I really like that you chose to omit the name of the food. I do wish I saw the price because that often determines what I order. And while I don’t think there’s a need to gamify it, it’s a practical concept nonetheless, and I definitely wish something like this existed.

Natalie Yang March 4, 2020 - 2:25 am

Love this idea—I think it strips away the unnecessary clutter of other food review and apps. Although I still find reviews compelling, specifically stars as a form of ‘social proof’. I saw that star reviews are given by users, but how would they communicated to other users? I think it could be interesting if only the highest rated images/eateries are shown with stars so that stars don’t clutter the beautiful aesthetic your team created.

Margaret Sun March 4, 2020 - 1:58 pm

This app is so, so beautiful, and as a person whose blockmates all have different dietary restrictions, EasyEat would make our lives so much easier. I wonder if EasyEat could partner with Snackpass, or offer an integration into Snackpass to help the user get deals on their food as well. This might further improve the price calculation part of the algorithm, and offer more options to the users. EasyEat might also track the frequency with which we visit certain restaurants to see if we can access an “frequent buyer” discounts (for example, some food places offer promotions with punch cards that get you something on the 10th visit, etc.).

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