TIPS
DESIGN ETHNOGRAPHY

Food Tasting

Deal with food and food experiences during user research.
The context

When conducting design research about eating habits or specific types of food experiences, a trial moment could provide interesting insights about people's perceptions and expectations. At the same time, organizing a food trial during an in-depth interview could be quite challenging: to keep a comfortable and natural setup while asking somebody to try/eat some food during the session is not easy, even if everything was already planned in advance.

Suggested approach

Having the food delivered at the participant's home (vs being in a neutral research facility) is a convenient option, that allows to still be in the context while reducing the potential confusion generated by the need of preparing or assembling the food right on the spot. The delivery could be planned for the beginning of the interview, as a way to get the conversation started, or (better) right at the end of the session, estimating the right timing upfront. As time is crucial, the food delivery works if there's somebody in the team dedicated to the coordination of that activity and the preparation of the trial. Another option is to organize the interviews inside restaurants, even if that would raise a broader set of challenges in terms of influence of the specific restaurant experience on the food trial, as well as the need to organize all the interview sessions in specific moments of the day.

Value added

As food is an experience that involves multiple senses, talking about it by imaging or recalling specific aspects doesn't always provide a complete picture. Having something tangible (and edible) to try directly during the session can stimulate the conversation around elements like taste, texture, smell,... and provide good insights from the direct observation of the participant's behaviour. For example: do they analyse/inspect the food before eating? Do they cut in bites and share? Do they taste just a part of it or it everything?

Thinking ahead

Food can also become the incentive for participating to the research: offering a meal in exchange of the time spent together. Leaving a recipe book and product samples at the end of the interview is also a nice way to conclude the session, inviting participants to experiment on their own and provide additional feedback later on.

SHARE THIS
TIPS

RELATED TIPS AND STORIES

Explore similar best-practices