Brick & Mortar Research
Researching analagous physical establishments

To build a broad understanding of cooking and event planning experiences, we investigated businesses that serve these needs.


We visited cooking-related stores: Sur La Table and Bed Bath & Beyond for kitchenware, Whole Foods for grocery shopping, and Barnes & Noble for recipe and event planning books. During these excursions, we observed how food-related objects and information are handled in the physical world.

Key Insights

Many shoppers at Whole Foods constantly scanned shelves and scrutinized product labels. Shoppers frequently picked up and handled products, especially when selecting fresh produce.

Handheld Artifacts
Many shoppers brought physical shopping lists to the store, whether handwritten or printed out.

Sur La Table and Bed Bath & Beyond both provided plenty of goods to aid in cooking, but neither contained much relating to the needs of a cook hosting a complex meal. Barnes & Noble displayed many recipe books but much less relating to event planning. Event-oriented books typically contained sample menus and sometimes included multiple lists of ingredients for various party sizes, as well as time frames outlining when to begin tasks and food preparation.

Shoppers browsed through the recipes section while they shopped for food.
Contextual Recipes: Whole Foods provided lists of recipes next to foods to help shoppers learn about the usages of the ingredients.

Design Insights
Recipes need to be usable in the context shopping so people can check ingredients off as they go.
Side-by-side comparisons are integral to the shopping experience.
Support distinctions between different types of groceries so that shoppers know what to use. (fresh vs dried, peak freshness).
Recipes need to be printable.
Help cooks scale recipes up or down.
Guide users in planning the timing of the many tasks involved in planning a large meal.