Designing for the service industry.



A mobile ordering proposal targeting the in-dining restaurant moment.


Experience Design | Nov 2016


Proposed Clients: Yelp and P.F. Chang's
Description: Senior Academic Project
Team: Charmaine Wu, Sonia Yau, Kosuke Futsukaichi, Michael Lo
Duration: 5 weeks

Role: UX, User Research, Content Strategy, Visual Design




P.F. Chang's Brand Equity

P.F. Chang's lack in communication of their brand values has led to the misperception that they are a restaurant serving authentic Asian food, hindering the franchise to expand globally.


My Role

During the 5-week development of LAYERS, I worked behind the scenes and focused on providing and applying various key insights through research. The application of these insights, whether it was user- or industry-based, helped guide and shape the team’s focus, design decisions, and trade offs.


Framing and Reframing

After identifying P.F. Chang's brand equity problem, I quickly iterated on different openings that we could take. Rapidly sketching my thought process helped me communicate and visualise my ideas to my team.

We came to the conclusion of seeing value behind P.F. Chang's tackling their brand misperception through collaboration with Yelp. The platforms that Yelp already provides are focused on the pre- and post-experience of business visits. Here, we saw an opportunity for Yelp to integrate their services during the business visit, thus making Yelp a fully holistic experience for customers. 



Yelp Collaboration

Yelp's main competencies are focused on the pre- and post-experience of a business visit. We saw an opportunity to design for the gap in between.


P.F. Chang's could re-align their true brand values by integrating Yelp's services during the in-dining experience.


Yelp could fill the gap between its existing services during the pre- and post-business moments, making its service a dominant holistic experience.


Focus and Value Proposition

Bringing it back to the food

We wanted to focus on re-aligning the P.F. Chang's brand to their values in food and breaking the misperception among the customers, especially the Asian demographic, in order to expand the franchise worldwide.

I think the term "authentic" is a hard word to pin-down. Now everything is so global. Is that authentic? I think that people had to judge for themselves: is it good food or not?

Phillip Chiang, Co-Founder of P.F. Chang's

A focus on the customer experience

We believed the service P.F. Chang’s already offers to their customers is crucial to how memorable the dining experience is. With great customer service, the company will be able to spread what they stand for through the people, rather than spending money on advertisement.

Solving brand equity without explicit advertisements

I explored and considered different approaches P.F. Chang's may be able to take to tackle their brand equity issue without explicit advertisements. 

An approach was narrowed down to two key points that targeted the goal of creating a human-centred design solution:

Word of mouth and meaningful experiences through digital touch points. 


Design Sprint

Week-long design sprint to narrow our focus

During our sprint, I considered how P.F. Chang's may approach their brand misperception that would advocate for their true brand promise through word of mouth and digital touchpoints.

We considered our long-term goal with P.F. Chang's and our potential risks.

We considered our long-term goal with P.F. Chang's and our potential risks.

We considered the different type of customers at P.F. Chang's and their journeys.

We considered the different type of customers at P.F. Chang's and their journeys.


Understanding each audience

I began asking who P.F. Chang's key players were and how their role would contribute to P.F. Chang's goal. We identified the different type of customers and their journeys with the franchise.

Our observations and insights

We concluded that the main target audience to focus on were the returning customers with a brand misperception. We saw this audience as our main targets to convert into brand ambassadors through word of mouth.

We saw value behind this target and established their specific persona to create a scenario that guided us during our form development.


Applying Insights

Creating Personas

To help narrow down our focus, we created personas and user scenarios in order to identify our target audiences' journey and friction points with their P.F. Chang's dining experience.

My insights behind the creation of our personas helped the team focus on our target audiences. I advocated for detailed backstories ― such as one's age, ethnicity, size of family, career, and income ― in order to understand the mindset of a certain audience's actions and friction points which highlighted potential opportunities to design for. 

This research along with my contributions behind the detailed creation of our users became our framework for developing the prototype.

Sebastién / Tech Representative / Mid 40's / Hispanic / Father of 5 / Mesa, Arizona


Yelp could ease the ordering experience while simultaneously realigning customers with P.F. Chang's true brand values:

Asian-inspired fusion food combined with hospitality.  


Designing for the in-dining experience

Farm to Wok philosophy

Reinforcing P.F. Chang's value of Asian-inspired fusion food through leveraging their philosophy, a brand promise of fresh ingredients from locally sourced farms.

Streamlining the Physical and Digital

Diners can access LAYERS through a native feature on Yelp or directed on P.F. Chang's physical menu. We saw value in implementing a scanning feature where diners may gain insights to their food which may be overlooked on a physical menu. Through a digital touchpoint, diners can order their food and see additional insights of their food, reinforcing P.F. Chang's true brand promise.


Reinforcing Brand Values

We incorporated P.F. Chang's Farm to Wok philosophy to reinforce their values of serving quality food from locally sourced farms. Diners gain insights to their food such as the origin of their ingredients and the family farmers.

Integrating the Yelp Tips features also helped us streamline familiar Yelp features in order to create a holistic experience for existing users. 



Avoid clichés. Arrive at interesting solutions

Explicit advertising was a clichéd path that the team could have taken. By listing out exactly what we DIDN’T want to explore, we arrived at the daunting and challenging concepts which led to our final form. I’ve learned that the point A to B type of solutions are banal, but are often too common. 

Building trust through transparency

We understood that even if we had explored explicit advertising, P.F. Chang’s problem still wouldn’t be solved. The loop of misperception would not have been closed and the advertising wouldn’t be engaging. 

Through digital touchpoints that encouraged freedom with guidance, diners were able to directly engage with P.F. Chang’s true brand promise. Diners had the opportunity to become the brand ambassadors through human nature: socialization.

We leveraged this aspect that holds true in all of us and, through word of mouth, we were able to focus on P.F. Chang’s values - the food - and integrate that with the diners in order to create a memorable experience that reflects P.F. Chang’s.