Case Studies

Solving the Problem of restaurant food waste case study

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So here is the story. We know food wastage is a massive problem in India. We create 67 million metric tons of food waste per annum, valued at INR 92,000 crore, growing at 8–10% yearly. And a significant share of this comes from restaurants.
So, in this case study, I’m going to walk you through my process of designing an app that connects restaurants with consumers so they can sell their surplus food directly and prevent it from going into the landfill. And in this, I’m going to talk about the consumer side of things.

So lets start

So while digging up more into this matter, I found research papers written by Jehangir Bharucha where they surveyed 63 restaurants in Mumbai back in 2018, and it talks about restaurants food waste and it reveals

  • 75% of the restaurants have 10–20 percent extra preparation.
  • The majority of restaurants have a policy of distributing surplus food among staff members and throwing out the remaining.
  • 18% of the restaurants surveyed claimed to have a complete disposal policy whereby everything prepared in the kitchen that has not been used till the end of the business day must go into the garbage disposal.
  • Out of 63 restaurants surveyed in this study, only two have tie-ups with NGOs and food banks to donate surplus food.

And there are more than 30000 restaurants only in Mumbai and this problem is really huge.

Market Research

To begin with, firstly, I first looked out for competitive apps to see how they solve that problem. I conducted a simple SWCDUXO desk research to understand better how existing apps work and how they solve this problem. so I can give direction to my thoughts, and for this research, I reviewed the following apps
(note none of these apps are available in India)

Karma- this Available in few countries of Europe has a really cool badge system and its design wise its really easy to use and encourages users to save more food items through its really nice interface.

Too Good to Go — This app is also available in few countries in Europe instead of selling individual items they came up with Magic Bag which is just basically a surprise box they also partnered with supermarkets but you can’t buy individual specific things. you can also switch between map view and list view which is really interesting.

Olio – this is just like a marketplace which connects people its available in UK you can find free things and also paid things and you can find all sort of household things beside food and have a really cool discussion features which is like a local community.

Food for all – this app is only available in Boston and New York city and to encourage people users get free meal every time when they collect 10 points which is really cool but app is too slow and hard to use.

you can find the whole document here where I written all things I concluded in this research.

Primary research

Now, after the secondary research, I wanted to gather some qualitative data, too, as most of the research papers I’ve found are pre-covid. Many things have changed in the restaurant business after that.

So to do that, I decided to call restaurants directly, and for that, I made a list of 10 restaurants around me that also sells food on food delivery apps, and I called them and asked for their manager’s numbers so I could get a clear picture of how much extra food they prepare and what they do with surplus food at end of the day.

I also decided to conduct a small survey to get an idea of how other people use existing food delivery apps. This is not a professional survey and doesn’t indicate the choices of the whole population, but it can give us an idea. But with limited resources, I have tried to do my best to conduct this survey and get an idea about the user


  • Most people did not find food on food delivery apps much affordable
  • Reviews help people decide whether to order from this restaurant or not
  • Most people order food using food delivery apps occasionally
  • most of the people decisions were influenced by the offers available on apps
  • People usually prefer to order food in the evening

Understanding the potential users of this app

So now I have all the required information, which is enough to focus my design decisions and to narrow it further down; I need to understand the potential users, so based on the information I have, I decided to create two provisional personas.
These personas are based on assumptions I made using the data I’ve collected and not fully researched-based, but it was something I came back to throughout my design journey to guide my decisions.

so here are the assumptions I used while creating these personas

  • People look for discount codes so they can save more
  • People do not find food on existing food apps much affordable
  • People decision is usually influenced by the Offers available on food apps
  • Restaurants want to make money on surplus food rather than throwing it away in a bin.
Persona #1
Persona #2


Now its time to go wild with thinking this is the most exciting part of this project; as a solo designer I used how might we questions to brainstorm about new features in a better way

Sorting app tasks

So after brainstorming, to have better clarity, I need to organize the whole thing before I jump into wireframing so that I can prioritize features to know where exactly to put them in information architecture. I choose to go with a quick card sorting

I arranged it from left to right most important to least important

Information Architecture

Click on image to zoom in


Now its time to pick up pen and paper

This is the first variation in this map is located inside a menu
Variation #2 in this version map is given up front of home page and i decided to add orders in profile menu
Variatiion #3

After some wireframing, I decided to convert them into HI-fi wireframes to test them in the early stage, and it helped me find some serious flaws in my design.

User testing

so for testing, I needed some people, and for that, I visited my college and asked few people around, and they all agreed to volunteer for it

I gave them some tasks to perform on my prototype, and I silently observed them taking mental notes.

the primary goal of this exercise was

  • To know how people interact with the prototype
  • Are they able to accomplish the given tasks with an ease
  • Do they feel stuck anywhere in follow
  • Test how easy it was for users to find the information they needed to understand and browse the feature.

I gave following tasks to users to perform it on prototype

  • Order from a restaurant
  • Go account and try to change your name
  • Navigate through the various pages of the app
  • Go to the active orders page
  • Try to find the directions to your favorite restaurant

Here are fixes I made in design after testing

So after the first round of testing, I was able to figure out many underlying issues in my design that I ignored previously, and here are the fixes I made after testing.

Style Board

Final Screens


Check out the prototype here

Bonus section

Review Cards

To eliminate Surplus food/leftover food = to Bad food bias, I decided to add a Review card on top of the restaurant’s page. It’s not a new concept. It just breaks down reviews and presents information upfront to users.
I haven’t decided on a system that will prevent restaurants from giving away lousy food.
So I thought highlighting reviews would be better as users can see what other people are saying about the place to help them make decisions as, on surveys, many people said thoughts influence their choices. Hence, I thought it would be great to break up and show information upfront more humanely to aid users in making their choice.

Future of this app

well, this is just one side of the big story its a consumer app, and now I need to figure out the restaurant side of things too, maybe needed a different solution for that so they can able to list their surplus items

And at the current time, this app is meant for end consumers only, and there are many great NGO’s working to end malnutrition in India. Maybe I can add a way to let NGO’s buy surplus food in bulk quantities from different restaurants to help them with their cause, and also it will help restaurants.

Key Takeaways

  • As the only designer for this project, I tried to optimize every process to make it more feasible for a single person.
  • while doing research for this app, I got to know about the seriousness of the food waste problem in India, and we need to fix it ASAP
  • Testing is equally as important as designing an app as testing gives you direction on where you should improve your app, and if I never tested the app, I would have never gotten to know about the problems in my design.
  • Research is a really important part of the design. It can push you in the right direction and help you focus your design decisions to come up with a better solution.

That’s a wrap!

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Solving the Problem of restaurant food waste case study was originally published in Muzli – Design Inspiration on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.