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Design, Implementation, and Evaluation of a Menu Management System for Restaurants

MP
State: completed by K. Sundararajan, M. Pernebayev, T. Singh

Introduction and Motivation

One of the biggest challenges for businesses is the reduction of operational costs as well as increased productivity. A focus on business process efficiency and the minimization of human-related errors may influence both positively. In this scope, automation might lead to faster process execution and to a reduced error rate caused by the human factor, especially in environments with multiple hops that information or data has to pass from customer to employee, and the other way round. Such an environment may be found in restaurants where a need for high customer Quality-of-Experience (QoE) in addition to low operational costs as well as high turn-over are mandatory in order to achieveboth a high degree of customer satisfaction and a high level of productivity.

Since manpower is one of the most importantcost factors in restaurants, and at the same time a key reason for altered performance, an automated order taking process is assumed to facilitate an increase in overall productivity by decreasing the time and effort involved in this procedure, while keeping customer satisfaction at the same level, or even increasing it. Increased customer satisfaction might, for instance be enabled in multi-language environments, like big cities, where it is hard to serve customers in their preferred language. Thus, the existence of a multi-language-friendly order-taking process might be essential for a relevant number of customers.

Description of Work

This Master Project covers the design, implementation, and evaluation of a menu management system for restaurants. This menu managment facilitates automated order taking (including order management). The Master Project puts an emphasis on three core items of work, (a) a thorough requirements analysis in collaboration with a partner restaurant, (b) system design, implementation, and integrated testing according to the identified requirements and in support of (c) a user study conducted in the partner restaurant. The study represents the culmination of this Master Project as it provides the menu management's evaluation: it assesses if the use of the designed and implemented menu management system shows a significant effect on productivity at all (and if yes, which one) — on the premise of unchanged or increased (but not decreased) customer satisfaction.

The menu management system is accessed by its users in the form of an application targeting primarily mobile devices (smartphones, tablets; OS-independence is a design criterion). Users refer on the one hand to restaurant customers who either bring their own mobile device and install the application there or they use a mobile device from the restaurant's stock with the application pre-installed. On the other hand, users refer to restaurant staff, meaning waiters or administrators. The application to be designed, implemented,and tested consists of three main functions (relating to the respective business processes), Administration, Reporting, and Order Management. The latter aims to assist staff and customers in the automated execution of a processe that is currently performed. The other two processes, Administration and Reporting, are supportive processes addressing members of the staff.

The Administration function assists administrators to support the Order Management process by managing menus and prices. For instance, for certain (already administered) dishes on the menu multimedia content such as videos and pictures may be added in order to support the decision making of customers (during the Order Management process), possibly leading to faster decision making. From the administrator's point of view, each update related to prices or the content of the menu demands updates to be taken in a database instead of printed menus that would have to be updated individually.

The Reporting function  provides accounting and report generation/export functionality concerning the performance metric(s) that the user study focuses on. Which performance metric(s) is/are covered by the user study and, thus, by the Reporting function depends on the study design — the detailed scientific study protocol determining a key task at an early state of this Master Project. During this task, a suited way to compare the use of the application and its effect to the performance of the Order Management has to the existing, non-automated way of order taking/manageemnt needs to be found The Reporting function may cover in addition also parameters that are not covered by the user study. Additional parameters are optional. However, additional parameters are strongly recommended to reflect the requirements of the partner restaurant. In case performance is to be assessed with a notion of duration, an important feature that the Reporting function has to cover is the use of time stamps on each phase between ordering and payment.

Finally, the Order Management function constitutes the core of the application allowing customers and waiters to use automated ordering and and managing of placed orders. Customers are enabled to place/modify/update/extend their orders without having to wait for a waiter to perform this task for them.

Master Project Goals

Driven by the description of work outlined, the following determine key goals for this Master Project:

Activities

Based on the description of work and the project goals, the following tasks targeting the required milestones need to be accomplished:

Final Report

[25% Design, 50% Implementation, 25% Documentation
Advanced programming skills in C#

Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Burkhard Stiller, Christos Tsiaras

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