It’s a funny thing, food. We talk about it all the time, it consumes anywhere between 40% and 100% of our waking thoughts, we socialise using it, and complain about it, and hide it from each other when we want it for ourselves. It directly dictates our mood, health, wellbeing and general ability to not die. Yet the subtleties of our gastronomical cravings remain little-understood.
Why is it that at 1am after a few pints of the amber nectar all I want is a big pot of hummus and some soft white bread? What makes insufferable social networking types feel the need to take more pictures of breakfast than any other meal of the day? What socio-economic factors lead one to ‘spiralize™’?
These are the kinds of problems the design boffins at Deliveroo HQ are aiming to answer. We don’t just sit around all day eating premium burgers and nudging pixels around (that’s merely 90% of it). No no. We’re constantly devising systems, algorithms and cunning pie charts to help us understand more about what you eat, when you eat it, and why it tastes so goddamn good.
To this end, I’d like to share just one piece of research coming out of Deliveroo labs — I call it the C.U.M.F.I. — Completely Unvalidated Mood Food Indicator.
The C.U.M.F.I. aims to give us at Deliveroo insight into not only the kind of food you like generally (broad demographic segmentation) but also the micro-fluctuations in your food cravings that lead to the knee-jerk 3am Chicken Cottage (lager), or the sudden switch to low-fat vegan alternatives (you followed somebody new on Instagram). This way we can improve the food we offer to our loyal Deliveroo scoffers.
But first let’s go back to the root of the C.U.M.F.I — one of your average Management Consultants favourite tools. Myers Briggs, (or the MBTI personality test).
Many of you, learned readers, will have used the Myers Briggs personality test to discover the four letters that define your very being. Are you Introverted? Are you Judging? Tough shit, whatever you thought you are, you aren’t because Myers Briggs gave you four different letters. It told me I was Ron Weasley. Great.
This chart tells you what you are deep down, but I thought it might be interesting to create a similar chart but for food types. My magical tool would help you know, based on your social situation, your general propensity for grease and several other factors, what you should eat at that point in time. But first I had to define my axes.
Defining The Axes of Food
There are some general factors that will affect the food you choose on Deliveroo — price, for example, or how quickly it will get to you. The former is less interesting to me as I’m trying to avoid traditional demographic segmentation and the latter should always be as fast as possible on Deliveroo so isn’t a useful variable to plot.
There are some factors though, that are more about personality– they describe the mood and situation you may be in, regardless of the cost and convenience.
Factor 1: Are you a food snob?
Do you eat to be seen? Will you only eat something with a Michelin star, or are you happy with your local (as long as it’s clean and friendly)?
Factor 2: Are you eating alone or with others?
Be honest, how often would you cook a three course dinner on a Monday night for your GoT TV meal? We go to more effort and pick certain food types when we’re entertaining friends.
Factor 3: How healthy are you?
Do you know how to say the word quinoa, with confidence, in public? Or do you love the grease and you’d stuff a crust with anything?
Factor 4: How brave are you?
Do you eat what you know? Or will you go for the Hungarian cold fish stew? Do you see a restaurant experience as comfort food or a culinary adventure?
So with these factors in mind I can now plot them onto my grid.
I know. This looks pretty incomprehensible at this stage. So how about we define some of the food zones you could end up in at any point in time.
- Dirty is on the left, healthy on the right
- Alone is the top half, together is the bottom half
- As you get towards the centre, people are braver and more snobby (so the outsides are more familiar).
This means that the top left hand square UADF is generally reserved for meals you don’t want anyone to know about, in stark contrast to SAHB which you’ll sing from the rooftops.
In fact, it might help if we put some foods into these boxes to make it extra clear. Clearly these foods are subjective– one thing that we see every day is how much perception of a food type changes culturally across cities and countries.
I know what you’re thinking. Indeed, I reckon in one day I could tick 4–6 of these boxes off.
What we’re looking at here isn’t describing someone’s food personality for good — in fact hour by hour I’d be jumping around the board depending on my mood.
Here’s the thing. Because the food you want is always based on your context, we can’t create traditional personality types here. Even the most ardent yoga-loving clean-living Spiralizer™ can fall off the wagon and nail a kebab, given enough time and alcohol. This is more of a ouija board of food sins, where we can watch ourselves tracking grimly from the bottom right with our post workout rabbit food all the way to the top left of doom, tinny in hand, stumbling into next door’s garden to throw the remains of our large Doner at their cat.
So how can we use this? Well, perhaps the C.U.M.F.I will help us at Deliveroo map our own users’ food habits. Maybe we can ask them to self-identify as one of these types before ordering, to better offer them what they want? Perhaps we can map the faintly disgusting eating habits of the average early twenties male and create a wildlife documentary? The world is our oyster (or kebab).
Knowing what people want and how best to give it to them is the most important job that we have. So even though the C.U.M.F.I is a bit silly, it’s rooted in a real need. When you’re hangry and want food NOW, every second that we can speed up your ordering experience by is vitally important. Winter is coming, you need sustenance.
Take the test!
You can find out where you stand by answering these four questions.
- Are you feeling unfussy about the place you eat (U) or are you a food snob (S)?
- Are you eating alone (A) or in a party/group (P)?
- Are you after something dirty (D) or something healthy (H)?
- Do you want something you’ve had before (F) or are you feeling a bit braver (B)?
This should give you four letters which may put you in a box on the C.U.M.F.I. Good luck and happy eating.