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What Restaurant Owners Need to Know about Cyber Security

The food and hospitality industry is vulnerable to cyber security threats and attacks like as any other industry. Hackers literally have various dining establishments in their cross hairs. After recently being alerted by government officials, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers & Brews informed shareholders that criminals have targeted restaurants to mine personal data about staff and customers alike. Hence, cyber security directly affects the restaurant business as well as patrons. Losing customers’ personal information can potentially reduce a restaurant’s foot traffic. However, this predicament can be avoided if restaurant owners are proactive in securing the IT infrastructure which can save them a lot of money but most importantly, create a safe environment for their customers.

Breach of Trust among Customers

Cyber crooks are drawn to the food service and even hospitality industry primarily because of the high volume of credit card transactions that are regularly made. According to the latest Trustwave Global Security Report, the food and the beverage industry has accounted for 10 percent of data breaches in 2016. Breach in the PoS system has been made up for 75 percent of the cyber-attacks which has recently been brought to the attention of restaurant management nationwide. The most critical aspect of customer relations and loyalty is trust. All the attention from hackers poses a threat to the restaurant’s financial and reputation. Restaurants, hotels and other commercial venues are starting to understand how critical data security is for protecting their business and maintaining the trust of their customers.

Educating Restaurant Management about Cyber Security

When a customer enters your venue and takes a seat on one of your booths as he/she waits for service, the last thing that should be on their mind is their information being stolen by hackers. But the unfortunate reality shown by a Gallup poll states that 70 percent of Americans are concerned about their personal information being compromised, whether it be cases of identity theft or credit card fraud. Therefore it has never been more important until now for restaurant owners to take necessary precautions and ensure the protection of their customers at all costs. The better understanding they have of the importance of cyber security, the more they are likely to develop business solutions to assure the success and longevity of their venue.

Gearing Employees for Battle

More often than not, there have been reports of hackers posing as electricians or representatives from cable companies that visit venues and request for full access to their computer system. Once these rogue agents have access to the server, they are able to install malware or obtain credit card data, loyalty program information, and other sensitive files. Some hackers use social media to gather information about a person by creating a phishing scheme. Employees’ going through cyber security training is essential for the restaurant’s security. This training will alert them of warning signs, suspicious emails, and potential triggers of data breach. They will also be provided with the equipment to strategize and effectively implement preventative measures to counter other cyber-attacks. Besides waiting on tables , operational staff can serve as watchdogs if they know what to look out for.

PoS Systems for Restaurants with EMV Compliance

Hackers frequently look for the biggest result that requires the least amount of work. That is one of the main reasons why data breaches of PoS systems are one of the highest ranked. Consequently, cybercriminals are able to steal large amounts of personal information from a single system with very little to no effort at all! Avoiding this predicament demands that restaurant owners use the most updated PoS system and meet government related PCI compliance guidelines. EMV chip card readers are highly recommended – a device that uses computer chips to authenticate and secure transactions made through debit and credit cards.

However, many small businesses, and restaurants in particular can be very hesitant to employ EMV technology for a myriad of reasons with cost being one of them next to the pressures of adopting new technology. Security is the concern that stands out from the rest. With incalculable cases of data breeches that surface the news every day making both the customers and staff vulnerable to having their information hacked, it’s no surprise that restaurant owners are very critical about the new technology they implement. While their reluctance is understandable, EMV cards are rapidly becoming a global standard for all payments and processing them. The shift of EMV compliance is therefore becoming compulsory for restaurant PoS systems.

Utilization of IT Professionals

Investing in an IT provider with expertise and experience in the technology industry may be one of the best business decisions you can make. Finding a competent third party vendor to install and host all IT necessities from well protected PoS systems for restaurants, WiFi networks to security systems. With a trusted IT professional, restaurant owners can build their confidence and knowledge of all the technology components along with the reassurance that they are in the safe hands of an expert who understands the intricacies of cyber security the best. It’s always good to have someone on stand-by when an IT issue arises. Someone who understands the problem can easily resolve it so nothing is compromised.

Having a Communications Crisis Plan

Many restaurant owners do everything in their power to prevent data breach but they unfortunately sometimes fall victim. Attacks from cyber criminals have a devastating effect on the business be it loss of reputation, declination of customer loyalty, and additional fines that can cause damages beyond repair. It is best business practice to have a well thought-out and effective communications crisis plan in place for these dilemmas. Should and when a data breach occurs, you can take immediate action to provide customer support and sustain your brand reputation.

Transparency is paramount to informing your customers about the threats of data breach by hackers. Providing your customers with the details in that regard will assure them that the issue is being addressed and solutions are in progress. A leadership team member should be designated to address this crisis to the public in order to prevent the leakage of confident information. In doing so, everyone involved with awareness of the situation knows that the vulnerability is coming from a reliable source. Updating patrons on the recovery process tells them that this calamity is being dealt with. Once all the issues have been addressed and that this quandary is now under control, you should notify your customers and explain to them the steps you have used to prevent the recurrence of this problem.

It literally takes hackers seconds to break into a restaurant’s computer system while reversing the repercussions of a data breach can take years. If not handled properly, restaurants may never be able to recover from this painful blow. By thinking ahead of time and taking action to secure all IT components, restaurant owners are not only saving their business but are also protecting the people who make it functional – that is being their customers.