Made from Scratch
MARIETTA, Ga. (Mar 21, 2019) — Seeking a way to take its antiquated order management system into the 21st Century, Gabriel’s Restaurant and Bakery sought help from Kennesaw State University’s College of Computing and Software Engineering (CCSE) to cook up an automated solution.
The Marietta eatery had been struggling to keep pace with its cake orders, which account for nearly half its business, and was stuck handwriting pertinent information in a notebook known among employees as the “cake book.” Baking nearly 12,000 cakes a year, Chief Operating Officer Susan Hutcheson said the old method led to human error and wasn’t a skill that could be easily transferred to new employees.
This past summer, she sent a letter to KSU asking for help and was immediately contacted by Reza Parizi, an assistant professor of software engineering, to develop the problem into a senior capstone project.
“The University is right here in our backyard and we are very much a community-first company, so this seemed like a natural fit,” Hutcheson said. “It was an incredibly positive experience and my staff was always excited about where the project could take us, but most of all, we enjoyed working with the students.”
For nearly three months, she and her employees worked alongside Kennesaw State students Kim Hertz, Nathanael Curtis, Thomas Glover, Danielle Brooks and Victoria Williams to design and build an order management program that could be accessed on an internet browser. In addition to organizing client information in a more efficient manner, the digital “cake book” allows users to track the progress of individual orders, print labels and take requests for specialty cakes, such as those for weddings and other special events. The system is currently used only among the baking staff but has potential to be expanded to accept orders directly from customers.
Hertz, who earned an undergraduate degree in December and is now pursuing a graduate degree in software engineering, said she leapt at the opportunity to help the bakery. Typical capstone projects connect KSU students with industry-leading companies, but Hertz was attracted to the uniqueness of a small business without a technology background.
“The whole idea of eliciting requirements from a client is paramount in software engineering, so we thought this would be a great exercise,” she said. “It took us a while to demonstrate to the client how we will take everything they were doing on pen and paper and build it into an automated process. In the end, it taught us to ask the right questions as software engineers to ensure the client is satisfied.”
Curtis, who maintains the ordering system for Gabriel’s while completing his undergraduate degree, said applying his studies on a real-world problem was one of the many takeaways from his involvement on the project. The students met with Hutcheson’s team every other week to receive feedback on their progress and to make improvements for the final product. They presented their work at CCSE’s Fall 2018 Computing Showcase, winning third place among undergraduate capstone projects.
“A professor can run you through hypothetical situations, but that can never replace the experience of interacting directly with the customer,” Curtis said. “This is actually something that will be in use for years to come, so it has to work right.”
As a thank you to the students, Gabriel’s baked the team a strawberry cake that mimicked the look of a woodgrain desk. On top of the cake sat an edible version of Curtis’ laptop with a KSU logo on the screen. Next to the laptop was a Gabriel’s coffee cup, a pencil and a loose leaf of notebook paper decorated with a note that read, “Thank you for all your hard work!”
Written by Travis Highfield
Photography by Rob Witzel