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How might we relieve the effects of the restaurant labor shortage during a global pandemic?


With the pandemic, temporary work gained popularity, and is expected to make up 50% of the US workforce by 2023. Temporary work is flexible enough to keep staffing levels optimal and prevents regular employees from being overworked. This staffing model could be a way to help restaurants survive the toll of COVID-19.

User Research

Before designing Bluplate, I wanted to know how restaurant managers were currently responding to the labor shortage, and what their interest level would be in using temporary staff. In addition to creating a Google Survey for 25 Richmond area restaurant managers, I was able to conduct one on one phone interviews with a few respondents. In my survey,  I asked how the hiring process has been since the start of COVID, and these were some of the responses I received:

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I knew managers needed help, but were they willing to trust temporary workers at their restaurant? Quality customer service is crucial to the success of restaurants, and they need employees they can count on and trust. 

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"I bought the restaurant during the shutdown (2019) and gave non-tipped employees a 30% pay increase, so the famed labor shortage hasn't hit us as much as others."

-Owner, Can Can Brasserie

I found that the majority of the 25 restaurant managers I surveyed were more open to letting temporary workers perform low level skill work (bussing, cleaning, prepping, etc.) than high level skill work (serving, bartending, cooking).

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However, most restaurants showed a higher need for high level skill work than low level skill work. Over half of the nation's restaurant workers performing high level work (serving, bartending, cooking) had considered quitting since 2020 due to low earnings, COVID safety concerns, and customer harassment. The low pay levels were not worth staying nor returning to the industry. 

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With this in mind, I knew it was going to be difficult to recruit and quickly train experienced restaurant workers. The best temporary solution would be to optimize the work of those still in the restaurants performing the high level roles - servers, bartenders, cooks - the ones making the profits.


Low to medium level skill work takes little to no training, can be done by almost anyone, and enables those doing the high level work to focus on critical tasks.


So who could perform low to medium level skill work to support these roles? 

College kids

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of Generation Z demand a say over their work schedule and refuse to work back to back shifts.

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Students who work 

15-20 hours

per week perform better academically than those who don't work.

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of full-time college students are employed.

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College areas

are hubs for hundreds

of restaurants,on and off campus. 


I created user personas based on respondents of my manager survey, along with secondary research. To get a better sense of each user's journey, I detected main pain points of both audiences and mapped out their frustrations to determine design opportunities.

Who is using Bluplate?

Key Bluplate User Moments

Bluplate User Flows

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