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Ethnographic Research

User Interview


Customer Journey Map

User Research: Coffee of Panera Bread 

Project Overview

Panera Bread Company is an American chain store of bakery-café fast-casual restaurants in the United States and Canada.

For this project, I was tasked to learn about their customer (and potential customers) behaviors specifically around their coffee products, and provide suggestions for future product launches with research insights.

Hypothetical Client

4 Weeks



Business Goals

  • Provide an understanding of customers’ behavior around coffee products.

  • Identify potential product range to introduce to the market base on the research insights.

Research Goals

  • Learn about participants’ regular routines involves purchasing coffee products.

  • Determine target customers.

  • Learn about what are their preferred choice of beverages (types of coffee) when they are purchasing coffee in a coffee shop, and why.

  • Learn about what are their preferred choice of coffee products for homemade coffee and why.


There are a substantial amount of cost-conscious customers that can be captured via affordable coffee products.



Ethnographic Research

I have conducted a total of 6 user interviews to learn about their behavior around drinking coffee while in coffee shops and at home. Among all the interviewees, only three of them are Panera bread customers. 

My interviews with Panera bread customers had allowed me to learn the current customer's preferences. Interviewing customers of other products allowed me to identify the hidden potential conversions.

Furthermore, I conducted follow-up home interviews to learn about their brewing process and their coffee buying habits in their natural environment. I then used this information to identify the type of products Panera bread should introduce to the market.


The photos of the participants' coffee.

Interview Topics

Participant background.png

Participants’ background

Identify user spending habits in coffee products.

Participant Preference.png

Coffee preference

Gain insights into user drinking habits such as WHY do they drink coffee;  WHEN do they drink coffee; WHAT is their favorite type of coffee; HOW do they like their coffees, etc.

Participant shopping behavior.png

Brand Preference

Insights into user purchasing habits when drinking coffee outside, preference, price range, frequency, and their last experience when purchasing coffee.

Participant setup.png

Home Habits

Analyze user concerns and spending habits on coffee products and brands, and what type of equipment they have at home.

Define Customer Categories

I created an affinity diagram to help me organize the interview data. The interviewees are divided into groups based on their income, caffeine intake, and spending habits. I then derived persona from these different groups. 

Customer category.png

Limitations & Scope

The customer interviews were done during the daytime or in the afternoon for this research. However, people drink beverages at any time of the day.

This information would allow me to learn why they chose to drink coffee at night.

Furthermore, the number of interviewees also affects the accuracy of the research findings. Talking to only six people can hardly define how a group of people prefer to have their coffee.

Secondary Research

Since participant sample sizes are relatively small, I have referred to SWOT analysis for Panera bread and its competitor- Starbucks, as secondary research. The comparisons of the analysis coupled with my user research helped me form actionable insights.

Panera Bread SWOT analysis

Panerabread SWOT.png

Learn more about SWOT analysis for Panera bread here.

Starbucks SWOT analysis

Startbucks SWOT.png

Learn more about SWOT analysis for Starbucks here & here.

Research Synthesis

User Persona

I have created three user personas to help target different customer markets; each persona file represents the target customer data and can be distinguished by their daily caffeine intake and spending habits around coffee products. These personas had allowed me to have a clearer understanding of what their goals are.

Customer Journey Mapping

I decided to use the heavy coffee drinker to demonstrate the customer journey map.
Matthew makes a perfect candidate as he has a set routine to travel to work every morning; he consumes a large amount of caffeine daily. He is price-conscious but open to explore new products. These characteristics give him a high potential of becoming a loyal customer.  
Below is showing a simplified version customer journey map for this case study; you can find the detailed journey map here.

SImplified Journey map.png


Panera bread should do further research on the following directions:

  • Develop products that do not require customers to purchase extra tools or accessories.

  • Targeting the customer base, develop products depending on their spending behavior.

  • Make coffee affordable and introduce promotional discounts whenever possible.

Key Takeaway Recommendations.png

What I Learned

Importance of User interview

This project was my first UX project involving user interviews.

Interviews with strangers had given me an eye-opening experience; I was surprised by how much detail the interviewees would share. I also learned to pause and stand the awkward silence for 5 seconds before the interviewees would continue speaking.

I also created a research plan to help me to direct the interview back to the original topic when the participants started to shift the conversations.

Creating realistic persona and customer journey map

I used the interview outcomes to create realistic personas and customer journey maps; the research synthesis had helped me empathize with the customers and understand their frustrations.
I believe this project has allowed me to develop research skills that will be helpful for other projects in the future.


Detailed Customer Journey Map

Detailed Journey map.png
Anchor 1

UX designer

Phoebe Huang


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