Savings Boss: An Ordering Algorithm for Restaurants; Oasification of Urban Food Deserts

Shomaker, Reed, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Rogers, Hannah, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Vrugtman, Rosanne, EN-Comp Science Dept, University of Virginia

The technical portion of this project focuses on an algorithm, the Savings Boss, and a corresponding user interface that allow independent restaurants to more efficiently and cost effectively purchase food and supplies from the vendors they use many times a week. The STS portion of this project focuses on combating urban food deserts. Its thesis is that Governments, companies, and residents can leverage urban farming, food mobility, education, and other techniques to combat food deserts, in U.S. cities. In cooperation, there is significant value in encouraging healthy restaurants with reasonable prices to grow in food insecure areas. The Savings Boss, through saving time, manpower, and money, aims to reduce some of the unnecessary costs associated with running a restaurant and in turn make it easier for quality restaurants to participate in urban food deserts. Food distribution and consumption is a massively important and complicated issue, which affects all of our daily lives, however in the United States it is widely neglected leaving individuals and small businesses without any support. It is clear that the current food system is well out of date and needs a major technological overhaul, but perhaps even more importantly is the social, political, and economic change that needs to happen in order to spur tangible development of the culture around food.

The conclusion of the technical portion is that the savings boss, in combination with a user friendly user interface to cater to a technology averse industry, can massively improve efficiency in both inventory and ordering as well as vastly improve the cost effectiveness of the daily ordering decisions, ultimately saving money for the restaurant, improving its ability to feed customers, and supporting those who rely on the restaurant for employment. The STS conclusion was that residents of food deserts should work together to exert political, monetary, and social pressure on companies and governments, while spreading education, food, and transportation to their fellow residents, so that they can more effectively assert their own pressures. While these conclusions have distinctly separate techniques, technical and social, they both utilize the simple, yet powerful, idea that small changes, whether to outdated practices inside a single restaurant or the social climate of an entire country, can make lasting and valuable impact on the entities they affect.

It is absolutely essential for engineers to get involved in this issue in both the technical and social side of this issue. Often engineers will leave issues like this to politicians or business leaders with the assumption that they know best or because these issues may not have the most glamorous or leading edge technological solutions. However, massive challenges, like food insecurity, need to be addressed by everyone, not just politicians and entrepreneurs, but also by engineers and scientists. Even though many engineers may not personally see the effects of this problem, we have the skills to design technology and influence social change to make powerful strides in this area and help those who need it most with the most basic human right, food.

BS (Bachelor of Science)

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
Technical Advisor: Rosanne Vrugtman
STS Advisor: Hannah Rogers

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