Food for Thought: An Exploratory Study on User Understanding of a Food Waste Dashboard
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Food is a vital part in human survival. Yet an estimated 820 million people were undernourished in 2018, as reported by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). This makes the impact of food waste that more impactful. Not only does wasting food account for the inability to feed a growing world population, but also strains the planet due to the environmental and economic impact it bears. Companies in the HORECA sector (hospitality, restaurant, and catering) are the third largest food waste generator and, more importantly, is characterized as a sector with an overall low sense of awareness when it comes to food waste reduction technologies and challenges of minimizing food waste. This research draws on a tech startup that provides an innovative solution to HORECA firms in order to solve the food waste challenge. This exploratory research aims to determine how well the front end of such a food waste monitoring technology is understood by its users, which are often managers and chefs. Semi-structured interviews on the current level of data understanding were conducted with five active users of the system, which composed of four managers and one chef. Additionally, a between-subject questionnaire (N = 65) was used in determining what effect the type and content of a dashboard has on the users’ understanding. Both the old and new version of the food waste dashboard were used in order to see whether the new iteration would perform better. Our analysis showed that the users of the food waste dashboard had a good level of data understanding and were able to make data driven decisions on the basis of that data. The results further indicated that the new dashboard did not significantly increase the level of perceived understanding, perceived usability, and perceived aesthetics. The dashboard elements that contributed the most to the interpretation of the data were the textual elements, such as the food categories table and the texts that present the user with a small written out summary or recommendation of the data. In terms of preferred text structure, we can conclude that participants seem to prefer a general overview of the data, and to see a combination of both monetary as well as kilograms information. We conclude that users of this dashboard have a sufficient understanding of the data, and implementing textual elements in a food waste dashboard increases not only the understanding of the user, but also of the entire kitchen staff, as textual data was found to be most often utilized by the users. Further research is needed however, on the possible implementations of larger and more diverse textual presentations.