What if restaurants and foodservice operators could gather data during food preparation?


THE BUSINESS PROBLEM & REQUIREMENT

What if restaurants and foodservice operators could gather data during food preparation and gain insights on how to constantly improve the quality, taste, and safety of the food they serve – all while reducing costs along the way? With funding by a large American multinational food, snack, and beverage company (SousZen’s first customer) and direction from its innovation partner Xinova, SousZen set upon developing an application that could deliver such a promise and hired AccelOne to build and test the solution to do it.

The solution required the digitization of input variables and the connection of kitchens across a broad global kitchen network that would gather the insights necessary to make recommendations and improvements. Crowdsourced data gathered between kitchen operators would also provide performance insights on successful practices being realized in certain locations, which could benefit other kitchen operators through information sharing between kitchens.

THE TECHNICAL SOLUTION

The AccelOne technical team leads traveled to Mexico to meet with the food and beverage company’s Mexican (MX) team, get feedback, and gather product definitions and application designs from the design studio hired by SousZen to bring the idea into view.

The main challenges were providing good user experience (which is key in a kitchen environment, given its dynamic nature), and allowing the kitchen to maintain its own procedures as much as possible.  This goal was essential for gathering meaningful and correct data.

AccelOne took the following steps:

  • Define the data components:

    • Create an “ingredients” database.

    • Define the data units and equivalencies between units, including ingredients volumetric density and other properties.

    • Implement geolocation, which allowed locations to be displayed on a map and for the platform to be able to analyze the restaurant locations’ activity on a regional, state, and city level.

  • Select a solid, proven cloud platform to support the application infrastructure: Amazon Web Services (AWS).

  • Choose a simple, easy-to-maintain user interface framework that would be supported over a long period of time for the front end web application: Reactjs + Redux.

  • Choose a back-end API that could handle the volume of concurrent network connections necessary to run the application effectively: Nodejs and Express.

  • Expose a REST API to integrate the solution with other systems.

AccelOne’s team was composed of the following 5 technical roles:

  • 2 Full Stack Engineers.

  • 1 Technical Program Manager (TPM).

  • 1 Software Architect.

  • 1 Senior Quality Assurance (QA) Analyst.

PROJECT DELIVERY

The project was kicked off and iterated with SousZen management, a UX design agency, and the food and beverage customer’s MX team. Scrum methodology plus weekly sprints and demos were employed. During these sessions, all stakeholders provided feedback, which was reflected in the next sprint.

The combination of input from AccelOne’s software architect and lead engineers resulted in a clean solution architecture for the application infrastructure, which enabled rapid programming of the solution to meet the client’s deadline for deployment. Modern communication and project management (PM) tools like GitHub, Slack, Zoom and Youtrack were used during delivery in order to keep the real-time team communication frequency high.

During the delivery process, the team discovered several opportunities to create new pieces and features to add to the platform build in order to enhance the platform’s user experience.

Version 1 of the product was delivered with the following components:

  1. Manager: This is the application piece that the restaurant and food service venue owners and operators work with to input the platform with all the kitchen activity, at menu and ingredient level. This app also provides information like ingredient use rates, sales, margin, and costs (per time and per menu), among many other features.

  2. Advisor: This component provided for a dashboard and administration interphase for the customer so that they could monitor a location’s kitchen activities at menu and ingredient levels, as well as visualize the data collected in the locations.

  3. Order Mobile App: This is a compliment to the Manager app that enables users to input sales into a mobile app with a simple UI.

One critical consideration in the development of this platform application was that it had to meet and match the customer’s particular food ingredients, as well as many localization details, while keeping within the scope of SousZen’s desire to create an application that would work easily and effectively for any restaurant brand or food service operator in the world.

THE OUTCOME

The food and beverage company that provided funding implemented the solution within a pilot program involving a select group of gourmet nacho stands and food trucks, and then began monitoring their activities while helping them work within the new approach of documenting food service prep and processes in-kitchen. This helped make the new approach easy and standard moving forward.

This process replaced many paper-based documentation and data-gathering tasks. It also removed the manual annotations of orders for the chefs, as well as other administrative manual procedures, replacing them with a digital domain solution that now gives restaurant and food service business owners more information about what happens in their kitchens. This helps them improve their menu offerings, food safety, and profits while giving the customer  insights that will improve their over-the-counter food products and the marketing strategies that drive snack sales (a key driver of the food and beverage company’s sales globally).

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