A side project for the community: How two recent IndE grads are helping restaurants adapt during the pandemic

A website created by two industrial engineering alumni who graduated in the midst of the pandemic hopes to bring some relief to restaurants by providing a way to create free, easy to manage QR code menus.

Toronto-area restaurants have been hit hard during the pandemic and have spent the better part of a year adapting to new public health guidelines to ensure customer safety. Many restaurants have put their menus online to minimize the number of touchpoints between servers and customers, however this can be difficult to do right. To help solve this problem Fawzi Ammache (IndE 1T9 +PEY) and Adham Zaki (IndE 1T9 +PEY) developed TurboMenu. TurboMenu is an online platform that allows restaurants to create a QR code menu quickly, easily, and perhaps most importantly, for free.

Comparison between a TurboMenu digital menu and uploaded PDF.

The online menu generated by TurboMenu is clear, easy to read, and loads quickly.

“Trying to zoom in on a PDF menu that takes forever to load or scrolling through a long menu on your phone can be frustrating, but not all restaurants have the resources or technical knowledge to give their customers a better experience,” Ammache said, “That’s why we wanted to create TurboMenu.”

TurboMenu allows restaurant owners to put their entire menu online and automatically generates a QR code that can be displayed for customers to scan. Owners create a free account and can immediately start building their menu. Changes to the menu go live instantly and do not affect the QR code. The menu link can even be personalized to the restaurant.

“We wanted to keep the site simple to use and totally free. It doesn’t cost us much to run and maintain TurboMenu and we really want to help out small businesses,” Ammache said.

Adham Zaki and Fawzi Ammache in their first year at U of T Engineering.

Ammache and Zaki met in their first year at U of T Engineering and immediately hit it off. They worked together on number of projects and quickly saw how well their skills complimented each other – Zaki excels on the technical side of things, like coding, while Ammache has a knack for design. When Ammache, currently a Junior Experience Designer at Publicis Sapient, approached Zaki with his idea he was eager to collaborate again.

“I’ve learned so many new techniques in my workplace, and I wanted to apply them to a personal project,” said Zaki, now an Associate Software developer at Konrad Group.

A franchise owner of multiple BeaverTails locations around the city started using TurboMenu soon after its launch and has already logged more than 200 scans. As the number of TurboMenu users continues to grow, Ammache and Zaki hope to add the option to include images on the online menu and will continue to help businesses who want to get set up on the platform.

“We’ve kept TurboMenu completely open source on GitHub. If people want to contribute to the TurboMenu project by fixing bugs or finding improvements, we’d love that! We are also happy for people to use our work to help build a new project,” Zaki said.

Engineers are problem-solvers, and as businesses continue to adapt and expand their offerings to survive the pandemic Ammache and Zaki, with their unique viewpoint as 2020 grads, are happy to play a part in creating the solutions.

-Published January 25, 2021 by Lynsey Mellon, lynsey@mie.utoronto.ca

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