• JP Taxman

What can we learn about the user experience from the new salad bar at Whole Foods?

Updated: Feb 7


Whole Foods Phoenix salad bar. Glorious, no?

In the photo above if you were to take a glance at it wouldn't look like much, but if we look a bit closer, and ponder a bit longer much more becomes revealed to us.


Before we talk about what what's going on in the above photo let's first discuss, or better yet, I'll tell you, what the experience used to be like at the Whole Foods in Phoenix Arizona. If you got a salad, and you wanted some dressing to be drizzled atop your leafy greens and veggies there were stainless steel pots full of the various dressings nestled inside holes cut into the countertop.


There was entirely to much wrong with this setup, here are the main points that made this experience horrendous:


1) Each dressing was poorly labelled so knowing which dressing was what equated to trying to solve a puzzle from the Da Vinci Code. The name of the dressing was on the ladles so you had to crank your neck at times to see what dressing was what.


2) Let's say you wanted some of that dressing on your salad, a standard and easy request from a salad bar, no? Not at this salad bar, you had to use ladles which would contaminate other dressings since they would drip, drip, drip, into the others as you’d fly the ladle over to dress your salad.


3) Adding to the above point, the ladle system created a wild mess that I'm sure increased the cleanup times for the workers at Whole Foods. I know if I worked there I'd defiantly try to pawn that job off on other people.


This is also kind of two but I wanted to add a 3. Because of the dripping, you all get a mess that adds to the clean up that the workers lengthening their clean up time.


Serious issues, can we agree?


To my grand amusement, they finally fixed this debacle and what a stupendous job they did.


Here’s what they did right this time around;


1) They came up with a solution that didn’t require redoing the entire table, they used the same exact hole slots for the old stainless steel pots.


2) Instead of using ladles, the bottles they replaced them with have spigots that allow you to pour your dressing out evenly and effortlessly.


3) This last feature is what I think excited me the most, especially because I talked about it in my Fundamentals of organization blog post, but they color coded each dressing so you can learn and map out what dressing is what quickly. Then, after repeated visits, just by recognizing the color, you'll know exactly what dressing is your go-to. Another smart move I'm not sure they do would be to put them in the same place every time, but that’s difficult to do because people will move them as they use them.


I love it when companies take extra care to consider and understand the user experience that their customers experience. That's what gets people consistently returning.


So, how can what Whole Foods finally figured out be used in your home?


Well, one quick example is if you have a bunch of dressings and condiments, which most of us do, you could create a custom insert that fits into the door shelf of your refrigerator and will hold the dressing bottles in a secure location.


Then, you could get a few colored bottles, or some glass olive oil bottles and paint them different colors. I’d test 3-4 different spigot types to see which ones have the best pour with least amount of drip. It would be important to test with each type of dressing or condiment because different spigots might work best for the various dressing types.


Want this to be a reality, but don’t have the time to make it? Reach out to me, and we can talk about how I can help get this set up in your refrigerator!

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