When I first arrived at NYUAD two weeks ago, using the cafeteria gave me so much anxiety that I avoided eating altogether for more than a day. I choose the word “using” here because the cafeteria is more than a place: it is a combination of several different systems and programs, and therefore more complex than a sit-down restaurant where the user follows a single, simple procedure from beginning to end.
Ideally, the NYUAD cafeteria would work in a similarly intuitive way. Users would understand upon entry what steps are required for the end goal of eating a meal, and snake through the system seamlessly as part of a collective. In my mind, the most effective and pleasant cafeteria situation incorporates new users into a system that has already been clearly developed. You walk in, see the queue, and go join it. As much as I support minimal programming and full user autonomy, in this particular case, the abundance of choice is overwhelming and inefficient.
Some Specific Problem Areas:
- Messy program- enter entrance point requires the user to wander around both sides before deciding what to order
- Different ordering systems at each station. Some require a receipt, others you point to what you want, others you order from an incomplete hanging menu.
- Unclear – vague wording
- Inconvenient – small in size, placed on walls, columns, and individual tables that don’t make themselves immediately visible
- Incomplete – not all menu items are listed, and not all necessary information is present
- Inconsistent – menu systems that begin at one station are not carried through to the end
- Cashier – faces backwards, one side only works for certain purchases, very little room to queue (is this a problem? I never use the cafeteria during peak hours. Will have to do some more research)
These will require a lot of careful brainstorming before any action is taken, but here are some initial ideas.
Messy program: move the red half walls to direct traffic from beginning to end, instead of starting at the middle.
Different ordering systems: make it clear from the beginning, or at least in a sign at the station itself, that a special ordering process is required. This goes hand in hand with moving the half walls — the resulting queue would provide additional space for conveying information before people arrive at the food.
Signage: Revise the meal club signs, have consistent signs to show what menu items count for types of meals, create larger signage (including a very simple map!) at the entrance
Cashier: also part of the new program, which may require moving the cashier altogether to make a better space for queuing