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Tasting Cultures

Tasting Cultures—

Service design • 3 weeks • team: Dahye Chung & Aditi Dhabalia

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Tasting Cultures is a service that brings together a group of strangers from different neighborhoods, cultures, and values to prepare a dish together and share it with each other. The service is discovered during your individual grocery shopping experience and culminates with strangers conversing over new foods. It explores opportunities and challenges on individual, group, and city levels, and leverages commonalities between people to provide a people-centric experience.


problem SPace

  • There is a lack of understanding and appreciation for diversity across communities small and large.

  • People want to feel more connected within their neighborhood or city.

  • It can be difficult for residents of a city to immerse themselves in local businesses and culture.

  • It’s not always easy to try new things.


  • Bridge gaps between age, culture, & gentrification in a neighborhood, and eventually a city.

  • Foster an environment where people can make meaningful connections within their communities.

  • Better integrate the local community into the commercial fabric of the city.

  • Provide people the opportunity to get out of their comfort zone and try new things.



Imagine you are doing your weekly grocery shopping. You pull out a cart from the line, and it looks like the picture below. Out of curiosity, you make your way to aisle 3. You spot the bizarre ingredient — organic tapioca starch — and a brief description of the service. If you sign up, you’d take this ingredient to a kitchen & dining space in your community where you’d get to cook, eat, and converse in groups, and see how different people use this featured ingredient. After scanning the QR code to learn more, you discover more about the featured ingredient and perks of the service. You input a little information about yourself and your culture to sign up for a time slot. Fast forward to the gathering. Diverse cooking groups are formed using your info from earlier. Together, you decide what to make with the featured ingredient. The featured ingredient and common kitchen ingredients are supplied, but you and your group visit a local grocery store to get the rest! You return to cook, eat, and mingle with others at the venue. At the close, everyone votes on their favorite dish, and the winning group has the opportunity to feature their dish at a local restaurant!




Experience, observe, & inspire

My team and I developed Tasting Cultures as part of a 3-week city-level sprint. We began this sprint from observations on restaurant culture and local grocery stores in Bloomfield, Pittsburgh’s Little Italy, as well as our first-time visit to Baby Loves Tacos.

We noticed an intimate dynamic between the chefs at the restaurant and the customers and decided to further explore it in the context of the community and the neighborhood.



This outing got us thinking about architecture as a window into culture, transforming the dining experience, toxic restaurant culture, crime prevention, amongst many other topics. We covered scenarios from DIY awnings, a gathering of local chefs & restaurant owners, to gifting foreign grocery items.

What we eventually landed on was the idea of strangers cooking together with a “featured” ingredient. We expanded on this concept through storyboarding and physical prototyping.


These ideation sessions raised questions like:

  • How should someone to discover this service while grocery shopping: a booth, on the shopping basket/cart, or though an employee?

  • How and when should cooking groups be formed: upon sign-up or at the venue, randomly or based on criteria?

  • How and when is the featured ingredient acquired: individually at the grocery store, provided at the venue, or grocery shopping as a group?



To address these questions, we mapped out value exchanges and began a service blueprint. Revisiting the purpose and values of our service helped us to reestablish a focus for developing the service in more detail.

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As we fleshed out this service blueprint, we hit a major roadblock. We understand that it’s a way for individuals to try new things and become more connected with people in their community, but why would someone sign up for our service and how to we shape the experience to support this? To answer this question, we took turns writing out motivations in first-person.

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This simple exercise helped to determine how someone would sign up for the service and also address many other questions we developed along the way. Here is our blueprint broken down:



We took these motivations and presented them as an informal survey in a classroom of undergrads, grads, and professors in the Pittsburgh community. We asked each person to raise their hand if they resonate with the following statements, and it turned out to be effective in communicating values and producing buy-in.

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We then centered the discovery of our service around these motivations and built mid-fidelity prototypes of the grocery cart label, shelf label, and phone screens. Future goals would include prototyping and testing other touchpoints, and joining them together for the full experience.

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Move through our final storyboard below:



  • Go out by yourself or with a team and pay a little extra attention to ordinary experiences. They can be pleasantly inspirational.

  • Leverage common experiences between people such as food and grocery shopping to bring people together.

  • Gatherings of people can bring meaning into our lives and take us away from our often tech-centric world.