Project Overview

All MS-HCI students at Georgia Tech must complete a year-long Master's project to finish their degree. I've had the privilege of working in partnership with Moe's Southwest Grill (and its parent company Focus Brands) alongside two other MS-HCI students, Jordan Movish and Laurane Saliou. Our mission has been to conduct in-depth research and design pertaining to the fast casual restaurant's online ordering and pickup experience. This area is especially key for capturing the growing millennial market segment (ages 18-34). While this includes a particular emphasis on how digital interfaces and technology factor into this process, we have been striving to incorporate a holistic "service design" approach. We have also borrowed many features of Karen Holtzblatt's Contextual Design methodology. This project is ongoing; we finished synthesizing our research in December, and as of January we've entered the design phase.


Literature Review

Our first step in the research process was to review relevant documentation provided by Focus Brands, which included information about brand identity as well as market research.

Competitive Analysis

Next, we surveyed the competitive landscape by evaluating the digital offerings (apps, etc.) of direct competitors (ex. Chipotle) as well as digital experience leaders (ex. Domino's, Chick-fil-A).

Naturalistic Observation

We also performed competitive analysis of the in-store experience, adopting a quasi-ethnographic approach to observing the pickup process at Moe's and a handful of competirors.

Semi-structured Interviews

In order to explore customers' motivations for ordering off-premise and their attitudes toward pickup/delivery, we conducted a series of semi-structured interviews (n=16), mostly using physical intercepts to obtain participants.

Contextual Inquiry

The centerpiece of our research plan, contextual inquiry differs from traditional interviews in that it happens in context as the user conducts their normal task(s), which tends to result in richer data. We used Nextdoor to recruit participants, and offered gift cards as an incentive. We performed a total of 12 contextual inquiries (each lasting around 45 minutes), mostly at Moe's but also at a few key competitors.


Affinity Mapping

In order to synthesize the data from our semi-structured interviews and contextual inquiries, we utilized a range of analog and digital affinity mapping techniques.

Identity Model

The identity model comes from the Contextual Design methodology, and describes the typical qualities, feelings, and actions of customers (similar to a user persona).

Decision Point Model

The decision point model is from the Contextual Design methodology as well, and it shows which factors the customer considers when they are faced with making a decision. Pictured is one of three decision point models we created.

Customer Journey Maps

Finally, we created journey maps to illustrate the customer's experience throughout the process and the various touch points they encounter (image credit: Jordan Movish).









  • Course:Master's Project (CS 6998)
  • Date:Fall 2017 - Spring 2018
  • Skills:User Research, UX Design