Why Hire An IT Provider for Your Restaurant?

Beata Grace Beatty

Beata Grace Beatty

Beata is a Florida-based freelance writer. When she’s not researching and pitching story ideas, she’s reading, walking on the beach, fiddling with home projects, and keeping up with her two daughters.

Do you need help handling all your restaurant’s technology? Most likely. Critical components of restaurant IT include point of sale (POS) or point of purchase (POP), budget, cash flow, and accounting software, supply management software, staff scheduling and reservations, public and private WiFi, cybersecurity, and mobility.

It’s a lot.

restaurant IT providers

Restaurant IT basics: What technology do you need?

As a restaurant owner, how do you manage all this when you are dealing with a million other things? There are a lot of elements to the modern, technologically-savvy restaurant environment. Owners and managers benefit when they hire a technology firm or expert consultant to set up these IT solutions. (And fix them when they break.)

Point-of-sale (POS)

POS is the transaction between you and the customer – the sale. POS software also communicates inventory levels and scheduling. Some incorporate camera systems. POS bundles often offer remote customer service, but packages can have limited resources for wireless set-up and emails. Industry leaders are ShopKeep, Toast, and Touch Bistro.

Secure WiFi and Guest WiFi

Many restaurant owners embrace the value of customer perks like WiFi. However, this integrated technology can be problematic. In the process of providing customers with a service,  you expose your infrastructure to a security breach. Owners and managers should consider setting up private and public wireless networks. Although with a little knowledge, these processes can be uncomplicated, it does take some know-how.

Although offering WiFi to customers is common, the trend to transform and monetize these networks is growing. Companies like GoZone WiFi and Purple provide analytics, customer insights, marketing and advertising. These systems work by allowing customers to access their Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media via your WiFi connection.

You may want to consider outsourcing marketing help along with IT help if you install a powerful system like this. It’s well worth the investment with a solid marketing plan in place.

Cybersecurity

These IT resources and tools provide a great hand up in reaching customers and running your restaurant efficiently. But don’t lose sight of staying safe. Crimes like digital theft and fraud are widespread, and you should take steps to protect your business, your data, and your customers.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has 10 cyber security tips that include employee training, using firewalls, protecting hardware, implementing a mobile device action plan, creating backups, controlling access, securing WiFi, limiting employee access to software, and always using passwords and authentication.

Avert business disaster by hiring a professional

In the last decade, IT has rapidly evolved, so restaurant owners increasingly find the idea of an expert or trusted advisor appealing, especially on a local level. Blake Downing, CEO of Aegis Business Technologies, emphasizes why it makes sense to use an expert, and how an expert can dial back in when things are going haywire.

Dowling recounts the story of a restaurant in Tallahassee, Florida that almost went out of business — after 37 years — due to a malware attack. An employee was checking email and opened a legitimate-looking UPS message that turned out to be fake and embedded with ransomware. To the employee’s horror, a message popped up telling him that all files and data on the computer were locked and encrypted. The hacker said they would provide the encryption key for $500 worth of bitcoin (anonymous and cannot be tracked).

Aegis experts came out to the restaurant, took the memory stick (not ideal) the owner provided, and luckily, restored all documents in a few days – something the owner could not have done on his own.

Dowling points out POS software companies are often cloud-based, and that’s a great approach —  but what if your accounting, menus, personnel, HR documents are also compromised? It’s best to have a comprehensive IT plan and a consultant can help.

According to Dowling, “Industry best practice is to have reliable, automated on-premises back-up, with a corresponding Cloud backup that replicates everything in two places in case of disaster.”

He goes on to explain that most restaurants don’t take these threats seriously. They don’t have anti-virus software installed. They don’t have spam solutions, back-ups, firewalls, and are not following best practices because they are relying on POS systems to guide them through everything. “You may have that remote help desk available at your fingertips, but you still can’t replace having someone in front of you, walking you through an issue… it’s hard to replace that with an 800 number.”

Focus on your customers

There is increasing value to having third-party, IT consultants who bring management systems, cybersecurity, wireless, and peace of mind to your business. If anything, it gives you space and time to create your menu, feed your customers, and grow your relationships in real time.

Jean Totti, the owner of Wepa, a restaurant that offers authentic Puerto Rican food in St. Petersburg, Florida’s Warehouse Arts District, agrees. Before opening, he considered various IT needs like website design, email, social media, photography, a sound system, WiFi, POS, lighting control system, security system, and surveillance. He couldn’t do it all and outsourced particular needs.

“I feel that outsourcing website design, maintenance, and updates are necessary. . . because technology and systems are easily integrated when you have the know-how. My time as a restaurant owner is best used in developing sources of income, managing our purchases, and handling labor costs rather than being connected to social media and technology. I like to spend my time on the real-time presence and not the virtual realm.”

Spend more time on your food, your customers, and your marketing by leaving technology in the hands of professionals who can save you from headaches down the road.

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