Test Kitchen - May

Well, what a weekend at AugustaMarkets in our pop-up shop in the middle of the market strip (Commercial Road, Port Augusta). Our goal was to communicate with the Port Augusta community, our concepts (product offers) for creating social dining for older people who live alone. These had been developed from our 4 months of discovery work mostly focussed on our primary customer segment.

From the 300 people that passed through our shop on market day we got overwhelming general  agreement with, and support for the mission and the value we are trying to create for older isolated people, however, only 1 of the 4 offers really held up to the public scrutiny in its presented form; this was DELIVER STAY SHARE.

DELIVER STAY SHARE is a very simple extension of the current Meals on Wheels service model, where the brief interaction over the doorstep is extended, taken inside, and continued whilst customer and volunteers eat together.  The job is to help provide a richer form of interaction that can provide added social and nutritional benefit. Importantly, this model would require a restructuring of the volunteer role within the Meals on Wheels branch and the recruitment of new volunteer cohorts. Our attention will now be directed towards testing this model and investigating some core assumptions relating to both the primary customer, the ‘volunteer’ (supporting customer) and indeed the Meals on Wheels organisation.

The 3 remaining offers were not without interest, but a range of logistical and conceptual issues arose which brought in to question their ability to deliver the desired value in their current form. Firstly, our two “Street Pop-up” models (one providing just the dining environment for BYO meals; and the other a food truck restaurant), we’re on first glance attractive to many, but on further discussion began to be questioned with respect to service catchment area around a given pop-up location, how that related to potential sales and viability and also to the ever-present transport problem for less mobile customers:

“If I have to get in a taxi or someone’s car to get to the neighbouring street I might as well go into the main part of town”.

The identity and regularity of a fixed location dining space/restaurant, and the feelings safety and familiarity that such provides appeared to be the prevailing preference (over mobile pop-ups that aimed to situate themselves near customers’ homes). One memorable remark from a local woman was: ”the pop-up idea seems to be something that might work in city suburbs, but not really out here in the country”. We think that the use of Pop-up style as the way to prototype and test social dining room/restaurant and ancillary service offerings does have merit  – but that this needs to take place in a familiar fixed location in active areas of town, ideally within the usual activity space of older people – so main streets of regional cities and country towns make sense.

The 4th offer HOST at HOME (both supported and D.I.Y) would appear to hold promise but possibly needs demonstration of concept and proof of concept through the fixed-location pop-up or even possibly DELIVER STAY SHARE. 

Taking all our learnings together we believe our direction is clear in the coming months – begin testing both DELIVER STAY SHARE, and a fixed location restaurant (in flexible pop-up style). This will require going back to our early stage discovery work in both supporting and financial customer segments to enable implementation.

We thank the organisers of the AugustaMarkets, Regional Development Australia Far North for their support and assistance (especially Daine Hoffmann and Greg Williams) and the Port Augusta Branch of Meals on Wheels SA volunteers and others for helping out on the day.