COVID-19 Impact on Hospitality Businesses

COVID-19 Impact on Hospitality Businesses

In mid-March, we conducted a survey to understand the extent of the impact COVID-19 has had on the hospitality industry. We also asked how the industry is responding to these changes.

[Takeaways] Learning from the pros: How to build non-traditional revenue streams

[Takeaways] Learning from the pros: How to build non-traditional revenue streams

[Takeaways] Lessons from the Pros Roundtable: How to overcome tough times in the industry

[Takeaways] Lessons from the Pros Roundtable: How to overcome tough times in the industry

Office Libations relies on Instawork to scale event business

Office Libations relies on Instawork to scale event business

Office Libations is a San Francisco Bay-based beverage and snack provider that helps clients keep their employees fueled throughout the day. The company offers support for corporate events, including bartending services and a well-stocked bar, and can accommodate parties of all sizes.

6 Staffing Tips That Helped Me Win Back My Time

6 Staffing Tips That Helped Me Win Back My Time

Most of us in the catering industry wear a lot of hats. We’re not just event designers—we’re recruiters, coaches, and HR managers. We handle business development, but we also tackle onboarding, training, payroll, and scheduling. 

[Case Study] How Catered Too! Used Instawork to Staff Large Events

[Case Study] How Catered Too! Used Instawork to Staff Large Events

It’s an enviable problem to have: A packed calendar, new ventures, and exciting jobs you can’t turn down. But for Catered Too! founder Greg Casella, CPCE, taking on more business also meant more administrative work—and an ongoing struggle to find enough reliable, quality people. 

[Case Study] How Bel Air Bay Club Uses Instawork to Find Quality Professionals

[Case Study] How Bel Air Bay Club Uses Instawork to Find Quality Professionals

Perched above the coastline between Santa Monica and Malibu, Bel-Air Bay Club offers magnificent ocean views and hosts more than 125 weddings and other private events each year. Clients seek the club out for their unparalleled location and beautiful architecture, plus the top notch cuisine and amazing service they offer. Assistant General Manager Rod March’s group brings in millions in revenue each year, and staffing events properly is a critical part of the equation.

Instawork Basics of Serving & Clearing Plated Service

Instawork Basics of Serving & Clearing Plated Service

How Willowdale Estate Tackles Seasonal Staffing with Instawork

How Willowdale Estate Tackles Seasonal Staffing with Instawork

Fall in New England is known for its beautiful weather and the spectacular changing colors of the leaves. It’s also a popular time of year for weddings, and it coincides with when college students and others go back to school. For Monique Jeffrey, CSEP, vice president of operations for Willowdale Estate, this combination presents some tough staffing challenges for their thriving special events business. 

Building user-centered products from a remote office

Building user-centered products from a remote office

User-centered design is an iterative process that focuses on an understanding of the users and their context in all stages of design and development.

If you’re a designer, you’re probably familiar with the different design techniques around this — user interviews, surveys, card sorting, focus groups, prototype validation, etc. But with the growing popularity of remote offices and work, how can product, design, and engineering teams deeply understand users that live half a world away?

At Instawork we have two product+engineering teams — one in San Francisco and one in Bangalore. But, all our users are in the US (for now!) — so we’ve been faced with the challenge of building empathy and products for users across the globe. We’ve experimented with a few different approaches and here’s what we’ve found works for us.

1. Meet your users where they are

Ultimately, there is no real substitute for meeting your users in person and understanding their behavior in the context of where / when / how they use your product.

So, we’ve made the decision and investment to send each member of the product and design team to the US twice a year to spend time in person with the local teams and Instawork’s professionals and partners. This is expensive and time-consuming, so not a decision we’ve made lightly. But, we’ve learned that a well-executed trip can pay significant dividends if you do it well. When someone from the team goes out and spends time directly with users, everything they learn and experience ultimately gets shared with the full team back home. When one person from the team visits the US, a little bit of every other team member also gets to share in the journey.

We take preparation for these trips seriously, in order to maximize our learnings. We also try to plan trips around the beginning of each quarter so that the things we learn can impact our product roadmaps for that quarter. Here are a few things we do before each trip:

  • Define a clear goal
  • Build hypotheses and user questions for achieving the goal
  • Build a research plan to validate our hypotheses

We plan our trips down to the hour and will have a full agenda scheduled beforehand to ensure a great use of everyone’s time.

There are a few forms of user research we employ during our trips to help our remote teams understand users and how we can help them.

We invite users to tour our San Francisco office and have face-to-face interviews. This has worked well when we have specific questions related to one of our objectives for the quarter.

For context, a gig is typically a catering event where the event organizer books staff (e.g. Servers, Cooks, Dishwashers, etc.) through the Instawork platform.

 

Instawork Professionals at work, at a gig I visited during my SF trip in Oct 2019

On our trips to the US, we’ll make sure to visit at least a couple of gigs and observe them happening in real-time. This is a great way to understand their work context and understand the offline dynamics of the Instawork experience. While visiting gigs, I’ve had great conversations with users who were struggling to use the app and have walked away with a new appreciation for the challenges we face.

The absolute best way to build empathy is to put yourself in the user’s shoes — literally in this case. This means donning the industry standard black bistro or chef’s coat and going to work at a big event or restaurant kitchen. There are many types of gigs available on the Instawork app and we set up everyone who visits the US office with a gig that they can work. This is the best way to truly understand the experience of using Instawork and what it means to be an Instawork professional.

During my first trip to the US with Instawork, I worked a gig at DOSA, a South Indian restaurant in San Francisco. Most of their staff was also from Tamilnadu (where I grew up) and it was great to hear their stories and speak to them in Tamil. It’s a small world!

Building empathy by working a gig.

2. Remote research

While we invest a lot in making sure our remote teams can meet with users in person, building empathy for users doesn’t stop when we return to India. There are a few research methods that work well remotely, and we’ll regularly use these as follow-ups to in-person research or validation of something we’re working on.

  • Surveys (we’re big fans of Typeform!)
  • Data analysis
  • Remote interviews
  • Doing support tickets

3. Documenting learnings

Since we have teams spread across multiple offices, we’re very diligent about documenting our learnings and storing it centrally so that it’s available for everyone across the organization including future colleagues. This is how you get extraordinary value out of sending people across the globe. By building a culture of documentation + sharing, everything they learn can more easily be learned by everyone else.

But sometimes just getting it documented centrally isn’t enough. After a while, a lot of research will pile up and it can be overwhelming to go through our central wiki. So, one of the things we’ve been doing in the Bangalore office is a virtual ‘lunch & learn’. We’ll choose one great piece of research from our Wiki and everyone will read it together at lunch and talk about it. This is a great way to make sure everyone on the team is engaging with the great user research available to them.


If you might be interested in joining a product and design team that operates like this — we’re hiring for product managers and designers in Bangalore!

 

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