The Case: ‘Hunger Breakers’*
‘Hunger Breakers’ (HB) is a small business owned and run by Rhonda Smith, single mother of three, in a small coastal town some 200 kilometres from the state capital city. HB prepares and supplies pre-packed healthy meals.
Rhonda saw a need for healthy pre-packed meals in her town for locals and for tourists and started the business in her own kitchen in 2000 with one kitchen-hand who also did the deliveries. The meals themselves were designed by a qualified nutritionist. Hunger Breakers then prepared, packed and delivered the packaged meals on a daily basis to local business clientele such as service stations, gyms, and corner shops and the occasional lunch orders from out of town. Initially business was slow but soon progressed further and started making a nice profit.
HB operates seven days a week, with kitchen staff working from 6am to 2pm, and delivery staff from 9am to 5pm. The business does not operate on public holidays. Over the years, Rhonda thought many times about opening the business on public holidays to take advantage of increased visitor numbers in the town on these days, but this conflicted with her desire to spend public holidays with her family. She was reluctant to open on public holidays with hired staff only as she felt that, as manager, she needed to remain contactable on open days.
Rhonda had done a business management certificate course which helped her in setting up the business. Later, she bought a personal computer (PC) along with basic business and productivity software to keep track of customers’ details, meal menus, pricing information, wages, details of fruits and vegetables and other raw material, packaging material, other overheads, invoices and calculating the financial figures.
Last year, the demand for HB’s pre-packed meals had grown to a level that Rhonda had to hire three more staff in the kitchen plus one full-time delivery person, making six staff altogether including Rhonda. It was beginning to be difficult for Rhonda to run operations smoothly with the existing PC and the software. She was also having difficulty in managing the pricing information (more complex than before) and raw material (more menu items available) and communicating with customers. It was not just operating the PC and the software, but time was becoming scarce for doing things she used to when the business was quite small.
Lately, a competitor had come in the market; another small business owned by a regional company and started to challenge HB’s products. With Rhonda’s problems in managing the business, the competitor had started to take some business away from HB. Rhonda realised she had to do something to keep the business ahead. Rhonda knew that computers could help her in managing the business well, but did not know much about them and how computers might be more helpful. One day she contacted a local IT consulting company which is owned and run by you and asks for your help in answering some key questions.
Case Study Questions
1. In order to help HB management, define what information systems are and briefly explain how information systems could be important to HB. In answering this question, be sure to mention different kinds of information systems and the roles they might play in different contexts.
2. Identify and make a list of the specific business and systems problems faced by HB.
3. What are the key information requirements of HB? For each information requirement you have identified, discuss how this information would enhance or improve HB’s competitive position.
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