Swapnil Kosarabe
Group 83

The Problem

As per 2014 Food waste survey, more than a third of all the food produced in the U.S. is simply thrown in the garbage. Several institutions, offices, and residents are aware of the food wastage issues but people refuse to admit it. There have been several initiatives recently to prevent food wastage by donating food to pantry and educating people about food preservation through various means. But there is a huge gap between the amount of food produced in institutions and the total quantity of the food consumed by the users leading to massive food waste.


Duration: 4 weeks

Team: Swapnil Kosarabe,  Aishwarya Sheth,  Bhavna Ganesh,  Hannah Ropar

My Role: I was a part of User research process and assisted the team in defining appropriate solutions for the problem space through research methods. I took the lead as the Product designer and designed high fidelity screens for kiosk and mobile.


The solution

We came up with a system that could be easily scaled to large screen interface at tower dining and a mobile device to assist students in customizing their meal as per their preferences.

Large screen kiosk

Mobile app

The Process

Understanding the context

We found interesting insights related to the food wastage at the consumption stage in developed countries like the United States. As per several blogs,

Everyday people in the United States waste enough food to fill a

0 seats
Football Stadium

Roughly 50 % of all produce in the US is thrown away annually which is equal to

$ 0 Billion
worth of produce

The food wasted in America each year could provide 3 meals a day for

0 Million


Narrowing the problem space

Through initial literature study, we found food wastage to be a crucial problem that exists across all domains viz. residential, commercial, institution, offices, hospitality, etc. We decided to narrow down our problem space constrained to Indiana University at Indianapolis. We focussed on the institution to understand the issue on a larger scale and to think of the solutions that can create an impact on the Millenials of different origin, studying at one place.

Why Indiana University ?

Site study

Survey forms

After setting up the context and target users, we created survey forms focusing on questions that would help us understand user behaviors, their understanding about food wastage and their eating practices in buffet style restaurants and tower dinning. We received overwhelming responses from 30 participants when we distributed the survey forms among the University students. 



To verify if students rarely throw food at tower dining we decided to conduct an observation session at tower dining. The observation session also provided us with many interesting insights that affected the user’s choices while taking food and also gave us a picture of how tower dining create an awareness about preventing food wastage among students.


After the observation session, we conducted a semi-structured interview session with chef from a local buffet-style restaurant and principal chef at Tower dining to know more about the demand-supply concept, production of food, the reason for food wastage, people’s eating practices and some of the limitations in the buffet-style system. We were also keen to understand why people prefer made to order restaurant compared to the buffet-style restaurant. 

There is a need to cleverly educate people about food wastage without letting them know” – Chef Roger Dish 

Deriving insights

Affinity Diagramming

We started gathering data and insights from the surveys, observation, and interviews and conducted affinity mapping to categorize the data and draw user requirements. Next, we started prioritizing the requirements such that it would assist users in achieving their end goal

Affinity diagramming helped us to identify key user requirements for the problem space and thus tackling the problem of food wastage.

Key areas of concern

1. Students trust staff at made to order counters when it comes to portion sizes or capacity i.e. they need assistance in meal planning


2. Students often find it time consuming to go over each counter and randomly select food that looks good which is one reason for food wastage i.e. they need to know about the taste, ingredients, allergens if any.

3. Students usually search for food items that best fits with their diet which usually takes a lot of time

4. Chef needs students to be aware of their capacity before taking food into their plate

The challenge

How might we design an experience to assist Tower Dining at IUPUI in reducing food wastage?


How might we assist students in making a perfect choice for their meal ?


The Customer journey

Once we came up with the key areas of concerns we sketched out customer journey of the students and listed several pain points during the user journey. We brainstormed on the opportunities at these stages which helped us during the ideation stage.

In the following scenario, we found students to follow different routes to learn about meals and to decide whether to eat at tower dining.

1. Students prefer to log into tower dining website to check the menu and if interested they visit tower dining

2. Students with meal pass prefer to visit tower dining and check either menu displayed on board or food counters to find if anything looks good and as per their requirement

3. Students take more food in their plate unaware of the food’s taste, fit and reviews in buffet style dining which is beyond their capacity thus resulting in food wastage

4. Students opt for small portions of food and one at a time making sure they don’t waste food.

We brainstormed on the opportunities at marked stages to explore suitable solutions during the ideation stage.


Sketches - exploring possibilities

We started ideating solutions for the problem space considering various parameters and insights drawn from the earlier stages. We came up with an educational app, smart countertop, smart refrigerator, Large screen kiosk, a smart screen on food counters, an AR app, food donation app, smart plate. We decided to move ahead with three of our choices to align with the goals of our personas. 

  • Large screen display
    Suitable to all personas, large surface for quick visibility, and interactions, include social collaboration aspect.

    Not portable, require several such systems in tower dining and need to identify specific locations, long queue during peak hours.

  • Mobile App
    Portable and profile can be loaded quickly, remote connectivity, easy integration with diet apps, pre-planned features, personalized account

    Need data from Chartwell dining about weekly meals, students need to download app

  • Smart sneeze shield
    Quick information about a specific meal, Recommendations on food portions, suitable to rarely visiting users


    User has to go through each food counter, time consuming 

We decided to create low fidelity designs of large screen display as it suits the requirement of 3 personas. We kept on ideating on how the system could achieve efficiency in delivering the best solution for preventing food wastage.

Sketches - detailing features

Paper Prototype - Large screen display

User testing - Large screen display

1. Student can select maximum two menu items from the range of cuisines available at Tower dining.

2. Students has to change menu items frequently for adding meal from another category.

3. Large-scale hand gestures can be used to drag food items from menu to plate causing physical discomfort and may result in Arm fatigue.

4. Students require personalized account to load their profile quickly.

High fidelity prototype - Large screen

User testing - Round 2


Bot recommending meal combinations.

Good for made to order style dining.

Results based on their preferences.

Rarely visiting personas found it useful and time saving.

Estimated time indication prevented long queues.

Chef can prevent overcooking with RSVP feature.


Uncomfortable entering personal details

Need remote access

Personal information should be updated

Long queue during peak hours

Uncomfortable sharing meal preferences and integrating diet plan

User’s capacity can change depending on the situation

Remembering food counter numbers

Low fidelity prototype - Mobile app

High fidelity prototype - Mobile app

User testing - Mobile screens


Can plan balanced meal remotely thus saving time

Set up a meal calendar

Privacy and easy integration with fitness and diet apps.

Can share diet plan with friends, families and consultants

Quick reviews about meal box

Exploring new cuisines


Food counter numbers

Success metrics

  • Users are easily able to customize or plan their meal – Time on task
  • Users can easily get the information on allergens and ingredients – in minimum number of clicks
  • Users are able to identify counters and the food that fits their requirements 
  • Chef can see the reduction in food wastage day by day – through the food wastage in the plate


  • Think about the Impact vs Efforts matrix when analyzing the solution.
  • People act differently than what they usually say.
  • Conducting user test frequently can help refine the solution quickly 
  • Fail early succeed sooner
  • Conduct group meetings to discuss and prevent any conflicts
  • Visual design needs to be consistent and compatible across different devices. 

Short description

Problem space