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Observation Study
Choose a cafe or fast-food restaurant where you can sit for about half an hour
observing people without drawing attention to yourself. You should also be able to take
notes on a phone or laptop without people wondering what you are doing. I will let you
decide whether to visit during a very busy time, moderately busy time, or slow time. In
your write up you should explain why you chose that particular cafe/restaurant and time
combination. It might be that the time chosen is the only time that fits your school/work
schedule and that is fine, but try also to draw on past experience if you have more
flexibility.
Imagine that you are the manager of the cafe or restaurant and want to know something
about the customers and what they order. For example, what are the customer
demographics – age, gender, appearance (professional/student/stay-at-home mom with
kids in tow/couples/groups of friends/ etc.). What do people tend to order? Do they tend
to order just a little or a lot? Does the amount ordered appear to depend on how many
people are ordering (e.g., individual or a group. What I mean is, in a cafe, are
individuals likely to just order a coffee drink but groups likely to order coffee drinks
PLUS something to eat? Or vice versa?)
You will make two visits to the place of your choice.
Visit 1. In the first visit, you will do UNstructured observations. You will not have a
checklist but will instead just observe each individual or group coming in. Your
observations might be something like:” Mom, early ’30s with 2 toddlers, orders a latte for
herself and one cookie. She splits the cookie with herself and the toddlers. She has
personal juice tubes for the toddlers.” “Man, middle-aged, apparent professional. Orders
triple espresso and sit down with laptop for more than 20 minutes.” “Group of 4 middleaged women. Order 4 different drinks. 2 order bagels and cream cheese. They had
some discussions about their children and school.” Also note if people stayed, or if they
took their order and just left.
Try to make notes on as many customers as you. Try also to describe as much
demographics as you can easily observe. You see that I ‘guesstimated’ age and tried to
use appearance to some degree. I wouldn’t recommend eavesdropping too obviously,
but what people are visiting for (a break from feeding the kids at home, working from a
cafe, kaffeeklatsch (which used to be in homes when I was a kid) could help the
manager decide what to have in the cafe/restaurant, what the atmosphere should be
like, etc..
From your observations in the first visit, you then develop a STRUCTURED observation
checklist based on what you observed in part 1. You might have the structured list be
an excel workbook with columns labeled: “Approx.’ Age,” “Gender,” “Apparent
Occupation,” “Individual/couple/group”, etc. REMEMBER – BASE THIS ON YOUR
UNSTRUCTURED OBSERVATIONS INTO MEANINGFUL GROUPS. Again, THINK
LIKE THE MANAGER OF THE CAFE OR RESTAURANT. What characteristics of the
customers would be helpful for him or her to plan food, decoration, music, lighting,
presentation of food, etc. to increase customer satisfaction or to attract new customers.
Part 2. Re-visit the cafe or restaurant at or near the same time of day as the first visit.
This time you will have your STRUCTURED observation list to check things off. You
might also want to have an ‘Other’ or ‘Notes’ column for things that did not occur in your
first visit but that you believe are important to note in the second.
You will write a brief report on your findings for visit 1 in word, and for your findings in
visit 2. You should report on which attributes of customers seemed to be similar in both
visits, and which seemed to be different. As appendices, you will include an Appendix 1
with your original observations from visit 1. Appendix 2 will include the list for your
structured observations, and your rationale for providing those particular categories.
Appendix 3 will be the excel file with your observations from Visit 2.
Grading rubric:
1 pt for the reason why you chose the time and place for your observations.
3 pt for the report (summaries of each visit and comparisons between the two).
2 pt for Appendix A
1 pt for Appendix B
2 pt for Appendix C.
1 pt for clarity and grammar in write up

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