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Scale the Special

Service Design to scale the beverage program at Airbnb's San Francisco office
Role & Team

Lead Service Designer

in coordination with Service Managers and Service Staff


6 Months of a 1 year program design


Participatory Design

Contextual Inquiry


Every Friday, Airbnb's Engineers gather in the dining hall at 4pm for their weekly Team Meeting. The three kegerators of the 5th Floor dining hall would service 100 employees in ten minutes. Kegs would run out of product and a line of Engineers would extend into the hall.

Within six months, I designed and implemented a scalable beverage program that addressed service pain points and incorporated "Surprise and Delight" for Airbnb employees and guests.  


The original kegerators offered a limited beer and wine service from 7 taps.  The taps struggled to keep pace with the demand.

Original kegorators

100 members of the Engineering Team regularly experienced long lines and empty taps.

Journey Map

This chart details the emotional journey of an Engineer getting a drink at 3:55pm on Friday. 

Engineer's Emotinal Journey
Challenges of original Airbnb beverage service design


  • Inspire Pride in the Workplace

  • Eliminate the Line

  • Support Local Craftspeople

  • Create a feeling of Abundance


One set drink style for each tap so that employees will be able to quickly find their favorites. 

Maximize cold storage to hold 2-4 kegs of backstock for each tap. More popular styles served from larger, 15 gallon kegs.

Numbered tap and keg system to communicate keg locations to Distributors, Receiving Team and Service Staff.


Contextual Inquiry

During evening service, I would stock glassware and observe employees interacting with the taps.

The level of engagement depended on the type of user. Some engineers read the cards looking for their usual style such as Cider or IPA. Others liked to taste through the selection looking for a new favorite.

In order to make it easier for people to choose their usual, we could set a certain style for a specific tap. This would encourage a habit of taking a glass and pouring from a usual tap without having to read through the card.

Participatory Design

Inviting the Service Staff to the process helped me shape a beverage service that they could easily manage.


During contextual inquiry it became clear that if the Service Staff felt a time crunch, they would spend as little time on each task as possible. This resulted in taps running empty until the end of service.

I used the data I collected to determine which beer styles were the most popular (Lager and IPA) and arranged to buy those in larger 15 gallon kegs instead of 5 gallon kegs. The more popular styles were thus changed less often. A business benefit of this solution is that 15 gallon kegs are 2x the price of 5 gallon kegs and serve 3x the beer.

When the Service Staff were able to quickly and confidently change kegs, the guest's experience improved tremendously.

Scale the Special

Beverage consumption multiplied as the SF team grew from 1000 to 3000 employees and contractors.

In response, I worked with distributors to reduce the menu change frequency from monthly to quarterly rotations. This did mean we could no longer serve small batch beers from breweries such as Field Work, but proved to be a great relief.

We expanded our cold storage to accommodate nearly 100 kegs so that each tap was backed-up for 1.5 weeks. 


Hyper Local and Under Budget

During my tenure as a member of Airbnb's Food Team, the Beverage Program grew to service the 48 taps in the Eatrium, another 7 taps on the 5th floor and 12 taps at 999 Brannan.


The alcohol program supported 20 craft producers and Bay Area small businesses with $70,000 out of a $85,000 budget. This translated roughly to $40 per employee per year. 

Delighted at Work

The beverage program became a point of pride for the San Francisco team. Employees would rave that this was the "best beer bar in the city."


Distributors boasted that our menu was second only to acclaimed SF Beer Bar, Toronado. 

Candidates and guests are steered to the tap by proud employees.

In retrospect

The collaborative and optimistic atmosphere of Airbnb's Food Team and employees allowed me the opportunity to design an automated and ambitious beverage program. The honest feedback I collected throughout the process gave great insights that helped us elevate a functional process into a delightful interaction. 

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