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Brightwok Kitchen

Testing and shaping a restaurant experience

Opening a restaurant is a capital-heavy undertaking with a shaky success rate. BrightWok Kitchen, a healthy, fast casual, Asian concept with a focus on salads and stir-fries, enlisted gravitytank to help them execute a series of quick tests that would inform their menu design and ordering experience. This two-week sprint demonstrated the value Food Experience Design (FxD) brings to answering service design questions and improving customer experience.


BrightWok Kitchen was born out of a love of vibrant Asian flavors and a desire to marry them with a healthy, modern lifestyle. Founder and CEO Jeremy Klaben and Executive Chef Kolter Livengood share a passion for making healthy food taste good and bringing elements of fine dining service to the masses. As a member of an entrepreneurial family, Jeremy understood the risks involved with starting a new business and the importance of research and preparation. He and Kolter spent months analyzing throughput and costing models, finding their space and working on menu development. But with only 6 months to go before opening they still had a lot of unanswered questions, specifically around how to design their menu for the best possible customer experience.


Brightwok Kitchen



Featured Outcomes

Rapid Prototyping

Micro Piloting

Service Design

Food Experience Design

“The tests showed us we could make our menu simpler and there is no doubt our customer experience will be much better because of it.”
— Jeremy Klaben, Founder + CEO, BrightWok Kitchen


The food industry is changing rapidly and the proliferation of fast casual restaurants is a testament to people’s desire for better quality “fast food” and a more authentic experience. Jeremy and Kolter understood that serving delicious food was just one component of success and asked gravitytank’s food experience design (FxD) team to help.

FxD has a foundation in culinary excellence and user-centered design, but also engages multi-disciplinary teams to explore all aspects of a food-related problem or experience. In BrightWok’s case, the goal was to learn how different menu layouts would affect the experience of their customers.


Jeremy and Kolter were inspired by Chipotle’s ability to quickly serve people a customized, high-quality meal, but wanted to provide a more elevated experience. A highly collaborative gravitytank-BrightWok team designed three 1-hour tests to measure guests’ desired level of customization and how the menu design impacts their overall experience. Customization levels ranged from choosing every single ingredient to selecting from set, pre-determined dishes.

“It was awesome to have a multi-disciplinary team so focused on one mission.”
— Kolter Livengood, Executive Chef, BrightWok Kitchen


Menus were only the beginning. In order for the experiments to effectively simulate reality, participants needed to feel like they were really ordering lunch, and actually get to eat it.

A team of designers set to work building a restaurant line out of foam core, complete with false-bottomed bowls to display fresh ingredients and a sneeze guard, while Chef Kolter and gravitytank’s culinary designers prepped fresh vegetables, marinated meat and BrightWok’s signature sauces. The team also designed surveys to collect feedback about participants’ ordering experience and their level of satisfaction with the food.


Not everything about our experiments needed to be “real”. The test didn’t have to take place in a restaurant and food didn’t actually have to be cooked in front of the participants. The team focused on the context around the behavior they were trying to test – the ordering experience. Menu design was minimal and void of logos, but prices were included. Bowls were not full of ingredients, but they looked fresh and ready to be cooked. Food wasn’t being prepared on the line, but participants could smell their food being prepared in the nearby kitchen. Participants didn’t actually pay for their food, but “employees” treated them as though they were real customers throughout the process.

In three hours the team learned more than they might have in their first month in business. They learned that visual appeal of sauces and ingredients coupled with employee suggestions not only aided in ordering, but also made that experience more pleasant. People wanted customization, but were also glad to have guidance, especially because the sauces were so unique. The overarching insight was that providing a sit-down restaurant experience in a fast food setting is a powerful point of differentiation in the crowded and ever-expanding fast casual segment.


Once the restaurant space renovation is complete, gravitytank and BrightWok plan to team up for another round of consumer experience testing to make further improvements before officially opening in June 2015.

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