Why is there a long queue at coffee machine?

Project Details


November 2016 – January 2017

Type of Research


Methods & Skills

  • Observation
  • Field notes
  • Thematic Map


  • Pen & paper


Final Report

Background Problem

This project is a part of 0HPH10 Behavioral Research Methods course. In this assignment, two other students and I were given the assignment to do exploratory research where we had to choose a technology that supposed to make our life a hassle-free but it does not. We chose a technology that we used a lot in a break time during lectures: a coffee machine. Coffee machines are found easily in every campus building in TU/e, but we picked the coffee machine at the Paviljoen’s canteen since we noticed that it takes longer to get coffee there than the other coffee machines in the buildings.


Observation & Field Notes

In order to identify the underlying problems for the delay of the entire process, we observe how every individual using the coffee machine to identify the problems. This method was chosen to get to know and explore more about the real experience of people’s behavior in using the coffee machine. The number of participants is based on instantaneous spot sampling.

We observed people’s behavior when they used the coffee machine in the Paviljoen’s canteen during the break-time for three days. We took a position from where we could observe people from a distance but clearly to see participants’ behavior. All the observers did a number of observations and field notes were taken for each participant.

Although, lack of cues can cause a delay, in some cases this was also enhanced by the ineffective payment method adopted at the canteen. Participants after getting their coffee or tea, had to stand in another queue at the payment desk where many times the cashier was absent or was too busy during peak times. Furthermore, we observed that participants, when they were alone, got lost in their thoughts or phone. Other times, participants got engaged in conversation with their friends when they came with a group. This also created a delay in the process.

Thematic Map


Of the four themes, the one theme that occurred the most, almost in all the observations was the “cues” or the delay created due to the lack of any auditory or visual cues. From the manifestation of the theme “cues” in the observations, it can be inferred that there is a strong association between “cues” and delay in the process of buying coffee.