Takeaway.com — A design thinking case

People hate waiting for their food. Restructuring the logistics is challenging, so that’s why we reframed the problem to ‘waiting for food isn’t enjoyable’.

Kent de Bruin
Apr 13 · 18 min read

Design Thinking Sprint

As part of my education at Hyper Island, we worked on a three-week design thinking sprint in collaboration with Dutch food delivery service thuisbezorgd.com (Takeaway.com). This case study explains the steps that were taken in dissecting our brief from Takeaway.com. We outline the phases of the process we went through, the decisions we made along the way and the justification for those decisions. It is mainly through this last part that we intend to clarify what our challenges were and how we dealt with them. The main goal we set ourselves was to work structurally according to the design thinking methodology. It is by working progressively on this case study that we managed to do so.

The Team

The team

The Brief

Takeaway sent us away with the brief:

How can we make the moment your food gets delivered even more special?

This was a design thinking brief with the objective to research Takeaway from a human-centered research process.

The design thinking process consists of 6 steps:
I. Understand
A. Empathize
B. Define

II. Explore
A. Ideate
B. Prototype

III. Materialize
A. Test
B. Implement

The D-school Design Thinking process

How we made the process our own

Before kicking off the Understanding phase of the IDEO process, we started with general planning. This was quite hard since at this point we didn’t have a clue what our brief was about. We decided to calculate the number of days we had to work on the project and we created a preliminary schedule. What we did was write down the different phases of the design process and try to estimate how much time they would take, and then assign them to specific days.

Our planning sheet

We tried an online version of the GANT planner to work in a systematic manner. However, the planner didn’t quite work for us. After this realization, we decided to do it the old-fashioned way by grabbing a big sheet of paper and using sticky notes instead. Our reasoning behind this was that the planner would be a great reference point on the wall at all times. Also, we argued that changing and updating the contents would be easier.

As to the IDEO process itself, we applied the Double Diamond model to the different phases. Understand, Explore and Materialize were in our understanding smaller diamond models on its own. This insight really helped us to understand the design-thinking framework better.

I. Understand

Because the Design Thinking theory was new to all of us, it took some time before we fully understood the process. Our lack of experience in applying the theory led us to feel a bit overwhelmed since at the beginning we didn’t see it as a set of smaller processes yet. We were unclear how to tackle the problem and we strongly felt like we had to start with some preliminary research in order to identify the persona that we would target. Also, it was the first time working together as a team so we were still figuring out each other’s strengths and weaknesses. This caused us to work in an unstructured manner during the first day of the process. After observing this, we took some time to talk about it. We re-approached the client brief and broke it down into digestible pieces of information. Also, we made sure to have a clear, common understanding of where we were in the process and where we were headed.

a. Empathize

In order to understand the needs of our customer, first, we needed to understand who exactly our customer is, what they want and how they think. We realized that the best way of gathering these insights is to talk to actual customers. We kicked off the empathizing phase by making a general journey map. This journey map was designed for the as-is state, focused on the actual activities by the user. In doing so, we looked at the full journey, so from awareness all the way to idle. We answered questions like: “how do people become aware of takeaway.com”? and “what makes a loyal takeaway.com customer?”

The reason why we decided to start with making a general journey map was to understand the full process that people go through at ordering with Takeaway. After we were done with the journey map, we actually felt like it didn’t make much sense since we didn’t see the relationship to the actual brief. We went over the brief as given to us, after which we considered narrowing down our focus to the “use” phase only since the moment the food gets delivered falls into this category. Since we all found that the brief was based on assumptions (there was no data to support the hypothesis that making the delivery moment more special was an actual need as expressed by the customer), we decided to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. We decided to conduct field research in order to identify which moments of engagement can, according to the customers, be improved.

b. Define

i. Desk Research

The purpose the desk research was to gain an understanding of Takeaway.com as a brand and the market it is operating in. Three key documents were identified: the 2016 Thuisbezorgd Annual Report, the Mckinsey & Company report (World food delivery market) and the Priori Data report (European food delivery market).

The 2016 Thuisbezorgd Annual Report gave us an overview of the company and its priorities. From this we realized that it’s market strategy focused on company acquisitions, making several throughout the year. In addition, it gave us an insight into the importance of market dominance in a region.

The Priori Data report ‘Food Delivery Tech: Battle for the European Consumer’ helped us to understand the position of Takeaway.com in the market, reiterated the importance of market dominance and outlined the different business models that companies adopted.

Source: McKinsey consumer research

The Mckinsey & Company report ‘The Changing Market for Food Delivery’ outlined the importance of waiting time in customer satisfaction and the value of customer retention. In comparing with our initial analysis of Takeaway.com, we observed a significant difference in their retention vs. new platforms (56% vs. 77%).

Key Findings Desk Research:

1. Waiting time is critical
2. The potential for Customer Retention
3. Importance of Market Dominance


We also finalized our persona based on the field and desk research.

Our Persona Sarah

ii. Field research

The purpose of the field research was to gather insights to identify customer’s pain points that we could not get from our desk research. The questionnaire was focused on the actual feelings that customers experience, as well as the thoughts behind those feelings. We decided we wanted two types of insights out of our questionnaire: on the one hand we wanted to be able to compare how the moment of delivery compares with the other moments in the process of using Takeaway.com, and on the other hand we wanted to be able to understand if and how the moment of delivery “as is” differs from the moment of delivery “to be”.

We first compiled a timeline of all moments the customer engages with Takeaway.com during the use phase (navigate/choose, placing order/payment, waiting time, delivery, consumption, review).

Before formulating questions to ask, we first identified who the interviewee should be. To make the results useful, we set hard and soft criteria. Our hard criteria being that the interviewee used Takeaway.com at least once. The soft criteria were mainly around the diversity of the interviewees in terms of academic background, age, living situation, etc. Also, we noted down that it would be crucial to take into account the experience and needs of the deliverer (if it does indeed turn out that the moment of delivery was problematic).

In formulating the research questions we did an attempt to avoid asking leading questions and implying bias. Once our questions were formulated, we decided on a practical way of collecting the data.

We agreed on conducting the interviews at Zuidas and B. Amsterdam. We had a consistent and structured way of leading the interviews, with a clear task division in our group: interview conduction, note taking and video recording.

We then sorted out the average answers per question and attempted to understand and contextualize them in relation to the desk research. We mainly concluded that we should consider the difference between regular and incidental users as there seemed to be a pattern in how they experienced and needed the delivery experience to be.

Two clear identified pain consumer points

We plotted the customer satisfaction level with every stage of the ordering process in a graph to discover trends. In doing so we discovered that there were two key insights from the field research: the biggest pain points for the customers we interviewed were:

a) Long waiting time, and
b) Consumption of food

We argued that a) is an understandable ‘pain point’ for users, and that b) was mainly a result of a). Our insight was that because Takeaway.com serves fast food, customers expect instant gratification. The clash between the concept of fast food and delayed gratification is conflictual for customer experience, meaning that it is likely the source of frustration.

Once we drew this parallel across the user’s expressed pain points, we argued that b) was a problem out of our control, and therefore we would focus mainly on finding a solution to a) Long waiting time.

Job to be done Approach

The Slow Elevator Problem

Imagine this: You are the owner of an office building, and your tenants are complaining about the elevator. It’s old and slow, and they have to wait a lot. Several tenants are threatening to break their leases if you don’t fix the problem.

When asked, most people quickly identify some solutions: replace the lift, install a stronger motor, or perhaps upgrade the algorithm that runs the lift. These suggestions fall into what I call a solution space: a cluster of solutions that share assumptions about what the problem is — in this case, that the elevator is slow. This framing is illustrated below.

However, when the problem is presented to building managers, they suggest a much more elegant solution: Put up mirrors next to the elevator. This simple measure has proved wonderfully effective in reducing complaints, because people tend to lose track of time when given something utterly fascinating to look at — namely, themselves.

The mirror solution is particularly interesting because, in fact, it is not a solution to the stated problem: It doesn’t make the elevator faster. Instead, it proposes a different understanding of the problem.

Reframing our problem

We understood the complexity of making the actual waiting time shorter. That was also when we realized that we should not even attempt to shorten the time it takes to prepare and deliver an order; instead, we would focus on changing the customer’s perception of time.

II. Explore

Because we spent a long time on understanding the problem and what the problem is with the problem, we started the exploration phase with a clear idea of what it is we were trying to solve. The focus on the moment “waiting time”, and more particularly the question of “How can we make the actual waiting time seem shorter?” was at the core of each step. It was really when working on making sense of our ideas that we realized the value of truly understanding the problem statement. If at the start we had struggles as a team to understand why we were taking so long on each step of the understanding phase, our work actually​ ​paid​ ​off​ ​when​ ​it​ ​came​ ​to​ ​the​ ​exploration​ ​phase.

a. Ideate

i. Problem​ ​Finding

As we entered the third phase of the double diamond model, our main objective while planning the ideation phase was to stimulate our divergent thinking abilities. We gathered together a range of ideation tools.

positive/negative post-it exercise

We started by doing a positive/negative post-it exercise. This essentially meant that we came up with the worst possible waiting scenarios, and tried to come up with their opposite counterparts. This in order to formulate the criteria for an ideal waiting scenario. We then selected the top three criteria that are most applicable to the Takeaway.com waiting experience. The idea was that these​ ​criteria​ ​would​ ​set​ ​the​ ​functions​ ​that our final idea would have to include in order​ ​to​ ​solve​ ​our​ ​identified​ ​problem.

​​​​ii. Study

A helpful element in the next step of our process was the paper “The psychology of waiting time: 8 factors that make the wait seem longer” by David Maister. The eight key findings of this article gave us great further insights into what​ ​functions​ ​our​ ​final​ ​idea​ ​should serve, i.e. it gave us direct solutions to our problem statement. Surprised by how well this article fitted our problem statement, we made a selection of the factors that were directly applicable to our debrief. This selection is what truly set the framework for the rest of our ideation​ ​process.

The most interesting part of finding this article was when we realized that the factors it listed corresponded more or less to the criteria for ideal waiting time that we had collectively come up with during the negative/positive post-it exercise. So in a way, this article allowed us to turn our initial assumptions into demonstrated facts about the psychology of waiting, that we could rely on in our future choices, especially when it came to actually come up with ideas on the form that our final idea should take. This was extremely helpful as it gave us a framework to work within, and well-formulated reasons to proceed in the same​ ​direction.

The Psychology of Waiting — David Maister (1985)

We proceeded with the idea rotation exercise also taught to us by the Hyper Island facilitators, during which we brainstormed on how we could implement our list of factors into Takeaway.com’s​ ​platform​ ​and​ ​services.

The main clusters of ideas generated through this exercise revolved around playful content and manners to distract the customers while waiting, like messenger bots that would update them about their order, actual or digital appetizers, curated list of activities that could keep them occupied, etc. (see image)​ . This exercise helped us in starting to discover how we roughly envisioned how we could put our theoretical​ ​principles​ ​to​ ​work.

With the outcome of this exercise, we started to see more clearly that we had just given form to the answer to the content of our prototype and that the factors we had extracted from the post-it exercise and the Psychology of waiting would explain the reason behind our prototype. Based on this insight we classified our ideas into columns of “what” and “why” and that we now need to add a column with “how” in order to now decide the form our prototype could take. The intention behind this was that by having the three columns we would have a better overview of our ideas and that it would, therefore, be simply a matter of associating the best ideas of each column in terms of originality, impact and/or feasibility​ ​to​ ​get​ ​to​ ​a​ ​solid​ ​prototype.

So we proceeded with brainstorming on all the communication channels that exist in our current society. By writing it all down we quickly noticed how numerous the channels are that Takeaway.com currently employs to communicate with their customer. It moreover allowed us to have a clearer overview of the channels we could potentially​ ​add,​ ​edit​ ​or​ ​remove.

Once we had our three columns aligned in a way that gave us a clear overview it turned out that our intention to associate the best ones of each column wasn’t as easy to accomplish. Through discussion, we experimented with different combinations but this was a very lengthy and hopeless process. This is the moment that we took a step back and realized how quickly we had gone through the ideation part of the exploration phase and that we hadn’t truly given ourselves the opportunity to generate a range of creative, crazy ideas. In retrospect, this may have been due to the encounter of the academic article that confirmed most of our assumptions, and the fact that we used that as a framework from the start of the ideation process without getting into an out of the box mode.

Uncertain of how to proceed and how to create opportunities for creative thinking now that we had already discussed potential solutions and thereby forged our mind towards a certain direction, we asked our facilitators for inspiration. It was, however, difficult to get in touch with them in that very moment so we dug deeper into our own resources and soon enough combined different activities to create a new ideation agenda. This switch had a positive impact on our team dynamic as we realized that a helpline​ ​wasn’t​ ​necessary.

Drawing with left and right to stimulate our creativity

We thus continued with one exercise consisting of drawing simultaneously with your left and right hands, supposedly in order to activate the right side of the brain. Another exercise consisted of a variation of the “heads, bodies and legs” drawing and folding game, but then applied to the question of how to make waiting time seem shorter in the categories of “what”, “how”, “who”, “when” and “why”. We didn’t use the outcome of either of these exercises in the future steps of the process, although they were necessary to carry out at that moment as it allowed us to put our ideas in perspective. We eventually used both the outcome of the “heads, bodies and legs” exercise as well as our previous moment this insight allowed us to organize our ideas according to a purpose which allowed us to think more freely and creatively, within each purpose. We thus proceeded with brainstorming about possible solutions within each purpose (for example occupying time) instead of within the whole problem statement (how to​ ​make​ ​time​ ​seem​ ​shorter).

This is when we came up with the original ideas that would eventually form our prototype, like the ideas of an appetizer, an addition to the waiting page that recommends activities to the customer while waiting, a way for customers to view how many other people are in the same situation as them, etc. categorization activity of “what, why and how” and intended to converge them by aligning them on a big sheet of paper. Having taken a step back we could now see that the category that directly affected how we associated our ideas, i.e. our ideas could be classified according to the purpose they serve. Writing it down now seems straightforward but at the time it took us a long time to get there.

b.​ ​Prototype

Now that we finally had ideas that were different enough to be interesting, yet coherent enough to respond to our new problem statement, we could actually explore how these ideas would take​ ​form.

In our first prototyping attempt, we chose to prioritize the functions according to what we mainly wanted our prototype to include. We concluded that keeping the customer occupied during the waiting time was the most impactful change we could make and test. The other, less prominent aspects would be being together, uncertain wait and the urge​ ​to​ ​get​ ​started.

Focussing on 3 aspects of waiting

We chose to focus on the online page that is currently shown while the customers wait on both the website and the app. The reason for this is simply that it​ ​is​ ​the​ ​most​ ​feasible​ ​to​ ​change.

The outcome of this prototype visualization round was mainly an addition to the current waiting page which Takeaway could use to curate their customer’s waiting experience. The idea was that while waiting, the customer could choose from a selection of media (games, video or music), tailored to their waiting times. So say they were determined to watch something while waiting, this page would suggest them an episode that is exactly as long as their expected waiting time.

We quickly went to the step of visualizing this idea and photoshopped our way through prototyping it. Again, we soon came to realize that we rushed through the process and hadn’t carefully considered our choices enough. This became apparent through our feedback sessions with Anne and Andy. Through these sessions we realized that what we mainly rushed is the decision of prioritizing occupation over certainty, i.e. we were focussing on occupying the customer’s time while the customer’s main need is, in fact, to be informed of the status of their order. In fact, customers can be waiting alone or in groups, can be busy or bored, and this solution of focussing on occupying the customer would only mean that we respond to the unoccupied customers. Our main mistake was that we didn’t apply customer centricity but reasoned in terms of what was most straightforward for us to implement.

We thus started the prototyping phase all over again, this time focussing on the purpose of reassuring the customer of the status of their order. Using the same technique of silent sketching and discussion, we concluded that this would best be manifested through a progress bar. A timeline would mean that the customer would be fixated on a certain given amount of minutes and feel irritation even if the actually delivery surpasses this indication of only a few minutes. Instead, a progress bar would indicate the phases their order is going through and truly reassure the customer that there is progress, with a visual rough estimate of how long is left. We thus set a new goal for ourselves: design an innovative progress bar. We decided that by making the bar interactive it would make it special and attractive (we mainly inspired ourselves from the internet connection​ ​platform​ ​game).

Multiple features from the psychology of waiting

Again, we received feedback from our practice presentation, based on which we decided to adapt our prototype again. The feedback we mainly received was that by focussing on the progress bar only, we miss out on the opportunity to improve the waiting experience for the customers who actually are bored. When discussing this point within the team, we realized that our main mistake was to include the option of playing a game in the curated waiting experience prototype. Indeed, playing a game doesn’t fill up the full waiting time, it is merely a distraction that is more appropriate to the progress bar. Our final group decision was to thus combine both prototypes into one. The focus would remain the progress bar, which would always show on the waiting page. It becomes interactive if the customer chooses to engage with it. The curated waiting experience would only appear if the customer indicated that s/he is bored, and this would not include the option of playing a game anymore since that is already implemented in the progress​ ​bar.

Once we agreed on this, the process of actually making the prototype was​ ​surprisingly​ ​quick.

III.​ ​Materialize

a. Test

After​ ​creating​ ​multiple​ ​prototypes,​ ​we​ ​asked​ ​for​ ​feedback​ ​from​ ​both​ ​Andy​ ​and​ ​the​ ​other team​ ​members​ ​to​ ​see​ ​which​ ​one​ ​made​ ​the​ ​most​ ​sense.​ ​This​ ​gave​ ​us​ ​some​ ​valuable insights​ ​into​ ​the​ ​direct​ ​relationship​ ​between​ ​the​ ​customer’s​ ​needs​ ​and​ ​our​ ​possible solutions.

Once​ ​we​ ​realized​ ​that​ ​our​ ​core​ ​product​ ​was​ ​not​ ​addressing​ ​the​ ​needs​ ​of​ ​all​ ​personas,​ ​we went​ ​back​ ​to​ ​the​ ​exploration​ ​phase​ ​of​ ​the​ ​design​ ​thinking​ ​framework.​ ​We​ ​considered proceeding​ ​with​ ​ideas​ ​we​ ​had​ ​before ​ ​and​ ​were​ ​discussing​ ​whether​ ​or​ ​not​ ​those​ ​would serve​ ​the​ ​customer​ ​better.​ ​In​ ​the​ ​end,​ ​we​ ​agreed​ ​on​ ​combining​ ​several​ ​aspects​ ​into​ ​one final​ ​prototype.

The final prototype

b. Implement

As​ ​implementation​ ​was​ ​beyond​ ​the​ ​scope​ ​of​ ​our​ ​research,​ ​we​ ​won’t​ ​discuss​ ​this​ ​any further.​ ​However,​ ​we​ ​do​ ​have​ ​some​ ​suggestions​ ​as​ ​to​ ​what​ ​Takeaway.com​ ​could​ ​do​ ​next based​ ​on​ ​the​ ​insights​ ​as​ ​presented.

  1. Implement​ ​the​ ​prototype.​ ​Engage​ ​customers​ ​to​ ​enhance​ ​the​ ​waiting​ ​experience.
  2. Iterate​ ​the​ ​product.​ ​Use​ ​both​ ​multivariate​ ​tests​ ​and​ ​A/B​ ​tests​ ​to​ ​determine​ ​the​ ​most engaging​ ​content.
  3. Understand​ ​the​ ​customer.​ ​Data​ ​on​ ​your​ ​users​ ​will​ ​be​ ​gathered,​ ​which​ ​has​ ​the potential​ ​to​ ​provide​ ​huge​ ​insight​ ​into​ ​your​ ​customers
  4. Improve​ ​customer​ ​retention.​ ​Based​ ​on​ ​the​ ​research,​ ​there​ ​is​ ​a​ ​huge​ ​opportunity​ ​in this​ ​aspect.​ ​Improving​ ​the​ ​overall​ ​experience​ ​is​ ​likely​ ​to​ ​create​ ​more​ ​satisfied​ ​and thus​ ​more​ ​loyal​ ​customers.​​

Kent de Bruin

Hi, I’m Kent. I’m a designer, writer & entrepreneur based in Amsterdam.

Kent de Bruin

Written by

Designer, writer, entrepreneur. Tall and Dutch, based in Amsterdam. Writing makes me think 🧠

Kent de Bruin

Hi, I’m Kent. I’m a designer, writer & entrepreneur based in Amsterdam.

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