FSB class takes on Oxford restaurant as project client, creates new website

Team members of the winning group on the Patterson's website

There’s an old saying often attributed to the business world that “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Mike Patterson, owner of the popular Patterson’s Café, knows about food, coffee, and business, but he’s the first to admit that websites aren’t his specialty.

“My website was horrific. It was elementary, it was a restaurant website. I mean, what do you need from it? You need to have the menu and you need to have your hours, you need to have the directions. But that's basically all my website was doing, and it was anemic at that,” he remarked. “The guy who was hosting the site said, ‘Yeah, I'll put something together for you.’ And he did, but it was very entry level for sure.”

This is where the “it’s who you know” part of the axiom comes into play, though it wasn’t Patterson who knew someone – it was his daughter. “My daughter goes to Talawanda with Professor (Gabe) Lee's daughter and his daughter asked my daughter if I would be interested in having a new website made for one of my restaurants,” he noted.

Lee’s ISA 406 class, IT Project Management, examines the problems and methods of conduction projects with special attention to modern information technology and software implementation projects. It has a requirement that students take on a real client-based project. So after Lee and Patterson agreed, six teams of students set out to build what would become the new Patterson’s Café website.

“Mike gave us a lot of free rein because he didn't have a precise vision for the website. He wanted to see what we would come up with. So he gave us very minimal guidelines and then set us on our way,” senior software engineering major Nathan Phillips explained. “We were able to get a lot of feedback from him, but he was very hands-off.”

“I'm not a huge fan of food pictures. I think if they're not done really well, it can be a turnoff. So I was like, ‘Focus on people. Let's focus on people, smiling people holding up drinks. Let's try to sell the atmosphere when you log onto this website,” Patterson said.

“Our team went to Patterson's, took pictures of people enjoying their experience, their food and everything. We wanted to really capture, like I said, that atmosphere that customers get when going to Patterson's,” senior information systems and analytics major Rebekah Poth noted. “We got to talk to a couple who moved here a few years ago and now go to Patterson's about five days a week for their breakfast. It gave us so much more insight, which we were able to then put onto the website so that someone who may not even know about Patterson's will hopefully be able to gauge the experience that they would get by going there.”

“I kind of struggle with creativity. So it was nice to have that challenge because in accounting and ISA, which are my two majors, I don't really get a lot of opportunity to work with a ton of creativity. It's a little bit more black-and-white. So it was great to have a whole range of possibilities for this website,” senior Elianna Pecha remarked.

“We added an interactive menu, added forms for them to be able to get in contact with the Pattersons for private events, a help wanted section, and a regular contact us form. We just made sure that it was really functional and really represented the business a lot better,” Phillips said.

“Another thing we added was an ‘About Us’ section. Their history is very extensive and very important to them. That's something they really wanted to showcase, so we had Michelle Patterson create this long story of all their history and experience,” Poth said.

After completing their designs, the six student teams presented them to Mike Patterson. “I'm sitting there looking at the first one, I was like, ‘Wow, that's pretty good.’ The next one, I was like, ‘Wow, that's really good.’ And the next – ‘Wow, that was really good,’” he said. “So as I went along, I saw different things and was able to really make a more educated decision as to which site would be best for us.”

In the end, the site design of the “Design and Dine” team -- Phillips, Poth, Pecha, Alex Schmidt, Kun Zhang, and Davis Sell – was chosen by the Pattersons to be the new website for the café. The new site went online during Miami University’s graduation weekend.

“In the Farmer School, we work a lot with clients in real-world companies, but this was the first time I got to work with someone who is in this community. I had a lot of experience going to the restaurant, so it was really exciting to be able to have that personal connection with a project,” Poth said.

“I am very proud of my students who successfully completed the client-based IT project in an extremely challenging COVID-19 environment. Students not only learn the knowledge of IT project management in this class but also apply the knowledge to come up with innovative solutions,” Lee said. “This experiential learning experience on which FSB places emphasis helps our students build real-world skills and demonstrate job-readiness to potential hires.”

“I talked to my mom the whole time we were doing the project, and she can't stop talking about it. Oxford has made me, has changed me for the better, and I’ve learned so much,” Pecha explained. “Just being able to kind of give back a little bit, in a small way, is just really cool.”

Old Patterson's website

Old Patterson's website

New Patterson's website

New Patterson's website