A shared kitchen space that provides working professionals with access to locally sourced ingredients, recipe inspiration and all the tools they need to whip up quick and healthy meals and a side of good conversation.
Roll: exploratory research, ideation, concept development, visual design, service design, concept video, evaluative research
Team: Allison Huang, Manya Krishnaswamy, Nehal Vohra
Link: Process Blog
Brief: Get to know the city of Pittsburgh and its inhabitants and make meaning change. My team became interested in unused and underutilized spaces in the downtown Pittsburgh area.
IxD Studio I, Professor Austin Lee
Carnegie Mellon University, Fall 2016
How It Works
LunchBox targets working professionals in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh who love to eat healthy, home cooked meals but lack the time prepare them.
The service provides:
Employers are our primary business model target. Small to medium size buinesses would purchase subscriptions to LunchBox for their employees as part of a health and wellness benefits package. This service would give these businesses competitive edge against top companies in attracting and retaining top talent.
Secondarily, customers can also walk in and enjoy the service through a pay-per-use model if their employer cannot subsidize the service.
(click on image to view in full size)
The Site & Space
Mellon Square will provide a beautiful green space for local professionals to enjoy a relaxing lunch break. This would in turn bringing more vibrancy to the area.
User Flow (Navigation)
A lot of thoughts were given to the user’s navigation through not only the LunchBox space itself but also the entire Mellon Square area as a whole.
Two staff members are present at all times to oversee and maintain the space. They are also available to answer any questions about the space or even cooking.
The design also takes into consideration health regulations by providing elements such as sneeze guards over the ingredients car, sufficient sinks, and access to restrooms.
The Heart And Soul Of The Kitchen
Smaller, postcard-size recipe cards are also available for customers to pick up at the pantry. These recipes are archived into a collection available physically onsite or digitally on the LunchBox website.
In addition to the standard recipes the LunchBox staffs curate, we will feature recipes from local chefs to form a "Gourmet Chef Special" collection.
LunchBox in Action
We prototyped a pop-up version of this service to help us: 01 validate the concept; 02 uncover insights on people’s behavior; 03 test the usefulness of recipe card.
The response was great. People enjoyed cooking for themselves and sometimes for others as well. The availability of prepped ingredients was well received and kept the average cooking time for the stir fry on the recipe card to around 8-10 minutes. Some people stuck closely to the recipe while others were more experimental by incorporating their own twist.
Validation from Working Professionals & Farmers
We spoke to 5 working professionals in the downtown area during their lunch breaks about the type of service LunchBox would offer. 4 out 5 said they see this service as being useful. 1 claimed that even though they can’t image personally cooking during lunch time, they can see a lot of their co-workers being eager to try it out. Of course one of the main concerns brought up was of the pricing and space design to accommodate for rush hours. We would have to stay within the $10-15 range, which is what they currently pay for lunch.
At the Farmers’ Market Coop of East Liberty, we spoke to Rick (Co-Owner East Liberty Farmers’ Market Cooperative) and Timothy (President, Penn's Corner Farm Alliance). Both responded positively to this service concept. Timothy suggested logistics to pick up ingredients from their central warehouse is crucial.
“You can start buying from us next week, if you want to…”
- Timothy, President of the Penn's Corner Farm Alliance
Exploratory research helped us gain a better understanding of Pittsburgh's residents and the challenges they face. We chose to began field at the Strip District, an iconic weekend gathering location for both new comers as well as Pittsburgers. We experimented with a cultural probe, informal interviews with residents and local vendors, and observations.
Informal Interviews & Observations
Supporting local businesses
We discovered a strong sense of community and support for local businesses. People have favorite vendors they have been visiting for decades, and the exchange of value between customers and vendors transcends monetary transactions.
Abandoned spaces at the heart of downtown gives the “sense of failing”
We observed many abandoned shopfronts and under-utilized public spaces in downtown Pittsburgh. Even beautiful and newly renovated spaces, like Mellon Square, see only a handful of people at its busiest time of day.
Market Square gets 7x more visitors than Mellon Square and food is the differentiating factor
With Envision Downtown's Public Life + Public Space Survey, we were given a comprehensive summary of the activity levels in various public spaces in downtown Pittsburgh. Market Square and Mellon Square are two neighboring public spaces yet the former receives far more visitors compared to the latter. Why? The presence of food establishments.
90 businesses with ~40,000 employees are within 6 minutes of Mellon Square
We conducted a study to find out how many people worked in the vicinity in order to get a sense of the scale of our potential impact. Through Google and LinkedIn searches, we estimated 40,000 working professionals are within a 6 minute radius of Mellon Square.
We organized our research observations and findings to identify areas of opportunity and continued with a few ideation exercises to generate a variety of challenges. After identifying the areas with the most potential, we generated a series of "How Might We" questions to ideate ways to approach them. (i.e How might we bring more people to Mellon Square? How might we generate energy and aliveness in Downtown Pittsburgh?)
We explored various concepts such as urban furniture for social interactions and a shared kitchen space. The shared kitchen space concept proved to be the strongest when measured against our core principles.
We recognize that food is a big deciding factor in the livelihood of these two public spaces. But it is unrealistic to duplicate Market Square at Mellon Square by filling it up with different vendors. It is counterintuitive to fight for the same group of customers by providing the identical services.
How can we provide a unique food/dinning experience for the downtown working professionals?
This concept is targeted towards busy working professionals who want a lunch that is convenient, pocket-friendly and healthy. It would give them access to fresh ingredients, and kitchen space where they can whip up meals without having to spend time cooking at home.
Through storyboarding, we tried to explore questions such as how could this service fit into the daily lives of our customers and what happens lead up to the service experience?
Expert & Potential User Feedback
At this point, we decided to assess whether this service would even be useful. We surveyed 20 working professionals, asking them about their lunchtime habits to assess the need for such a service. 10 of them responded positively, saying they would find the service useful.
"If you add friends to cook with and a rotating cooking schedule, that gets exciting."
"It would make life easier."
We also spoke to Molly Steenson and Francis Carter who are experienced in service design, and food and social innovation respectively. They thought the concept was novel and urged us to look into food regulations, finding ways to simplify the cooking process, and develop a strong business model.