Back to Home
Dignity Meals is a mobile application for frequent diners who can redeem discount coupons towards their restaurant bills, in turn helping raise money towards buying meals for the needy.
UX & UI Designer
iOS project
Capstone project @

The Brief

For my first capstone project at Designlab, I chose to pursue this project due to the interesting nature of the problem.

In the US and Canada, restaurants are prohibited from donating leftover food to shelters and individuals, yet millions go hungry night after night. Why? What’s going on?

The Chicago-based startup Dignity Meals is looking to Designlab to help them design an intuitive, easy-to-use mobile application that matches food donors with volunteers in their local areas to redistribute this normally wasted food to needy families. The proposed application will help food donors from all over - restaurants, grocery stores, churches, private functions and more - to donate food to those who need it in a timely, safe, and easy-to-use way.

Everyone on the small team of engineers is excited to help solve this massive global problem, but investors have some concerns with regulations and monetizing the idea.

As this was a fictitious brief, I decided to reinterpret it. I was in India at the time and saw massive potential to solve this problem in the Indian context. Having worked with the homeless and needy population in Chennai, India, I saw a great opportunity for technology to aid the effort. It would also be much more effective to solve the problem in a context in which I could conduct field research and get real insights rather than fictional. 

I redefined the given problem to be broader and give my more opportunity to explore the target demographics and the problem space.

People go hungry every day in India. Who are they? How can we feed them? How can we monetize this and bring it to scale?

Exploring the problem space
Firstly, I consulted subject matter experts who were actively involved with food distribution to the needy in Chennai, India. I picked her brain for a couple of hours with the aim of understanding the macro picture before going into user research. I also consulted restaurant owners who were involved in food distribution.

At the end of our conversations, I realized that the process of food distribution to the needy had a lot of moving parts and involves alot of different participants.

The three different categories of participants were as follows:

- Vendors & Donors who make donations of fresh foods or leftovers .g. Restaurants, Religious Organizations, Social Organizations, Companies & the public.
- Distributors who actively map the geographical distribution of the needy and transport the food to them E.g. NGOs, volunteers, Mental Health professionals, Disaster Relief workers.
- Recipients of the donated food E.g. The homeless, mentally ill, unemployed, homeless labourers, homeless migrants, impoverished families and the transgendered.

The main takeaways greatly differed from my expectations.

Takeaways from preliminary research

The homeless in Chennai usually go to sleep by 10 to 11pm. They usually refuse to consume food after this point, and if this food is distributed anyway, the food goes to waste. For example, a volunteer may want to distribute 100 portions of food at 10.30pm but only manages to distribute 5 packets. As many restaurants kindly donate freshly prepared food, this distribution process actually creates excess wastage.

Most restaurants and vendors only know their wastage data by the time their production ends, usually during closing hours between 9.30pm to 10.00pm.

With the preliminary insights in mind, I set out to do an open ended survey targeted at NGO’s and Subject Matter Experts. I conducted the survey through Google forms, and interviewed a total of 5 experts.

The main insights that I found from their responses were as follows:

- 5 out of 5 participants reported that timing of distribution was the main issue, more so than money. This led to the needy sleeping hungry, and also led to excess wastage.
- 4 out of 5 participants suggested that making the system independent of time, specifically earlier distribution would help mitigate hunger further.

An ‘aha!’ moment

Through the research, I found that most experts report timing of distribution to be their main hindrance. However, charitable restaurants are starved for time and margins are thin, therefore it is not reasonable to adjust their schedule to distribute their production surplus at an earlier time as it disrupts their operating schedule. There were also plenty of apps already on the market that solve the problem of connecting donors and volunteers.

I wondered about how we could incentivize the restaurants to either donate food or somehow help raise funds to buy meals for the needy. As far as monetization of the app goes, incentivization would be key, as it motivates participants to contribute.

Given these constraints, I hypothesized a way to raise money to provide meals for the needy by rewarding all participants rather than hindering their efforts:

  1. Users dine out, make use of great deals, and save money.
  2. Restaurants profit from increased sales on 'slow days' such as weekdays, while going about regular operations with minimal effort.
  3. A flat fee is paid by the restaurant per coupon redeemed, part of which goes towards buying meals for the poor and hungry.

I quickly formulated a quantitative survey aimed at everyday diners in Chennai to find out about their habits and attitudes with regards to dining out, coupons and charity. The survey revealed some interesting statistics:

  • 100% of users eat out on a weekly basis.
  • 35.7% of users were worried about the cost of eating out.
  • 78% of users reported that they rarely used coupons.
  • 90% of users reported that the main reasons for not donating to charity on a more frequent basis were financial goals and a lack of money.

The most cited reasons for not using coupons were limited options, lack of awareness about offers and a lack of good deals.

UX Strategy


Initial flows

User Testing

I created an InVision prototype from the wireframes and demonstrated a cognitive walkthrough to six users.

  • Users understood the objective of the application.
  • Users were confused by the onboarding process. They did not understand from the wireframes if it is a ‘how it works’ slideshow or an interactive tutorial.
  • Some users felt that a few of the text headings in the Redeem QR flow read like commands rather than
  • Users wanted to see the location of the restaurant within the ‘View Coupon’ screen.
  • Users felt confused by the linguistics of the screens in the ‘Redeem QR’ flow, and did not have a clear idea of the conditions of a coupon or what they redeemed.
  • The sign-up flow was clear and worked well, except for the use of the word ‘Beacons’.

With this in mind, I re-iterated on the onboarding screens and the ‘Redeem QR’ flow, and fixed the linguistics, and fixed all the other minor issues that arose from user testing.

Style tile

I wanted to make sure that the visual style is upbeat and reflects freshness in order to cater to frequent diners, in order to differentiate from the mass of non-profit and donation applications out there.

Final Mockups

Sign up flow

Redeem-a-coupon flow

Personal Profile