As restaurants adopt more technology to efficiently manage everything from processing orders to monitoring appliances, they may also expose themselves to cyber risk. Cyberattacks have been on the rise during the pandemic as cyber criminals have tried to take advantage of vulnerabilities resulting from the widespread disruption to organizations: According to Check Point Research, there was a 50 percent increase in cyberattacks on corporate networks per week in 2021 compared to 2020. Hospitality businesses are especially attractive targets for cyber criminals because they process reams of guest payment information and may inadvertently provide easy gateways to launch an attack – such as a public Wi-Fi connection or an untrained staff member who opens a malicious email attachment. Make sure you’re taking steps to protect your business through staff training and secure software and systems. For example, limit the number of people who can log on to your network. Train staff to be vigilant about emails they open – by only opening messages and attachments from recognized contacts. Have staff use complex passwords that must be changed regularly. Use a firewall to separate transactions in the front of the house and the back. Have a secure, password-protected Wi-Fi network for guests that is separate from your business network. Ensure your malware protection is kept up to date. Finally, you might also consider a cyber insurance policy, which can not only help you recover financial losses due to a cyberattack but also includes post-breach support from IT experts who can identify the source of the problem and help your business get back up and running with minimal interruption.
Is the technology you use to present your menu, take and prepare orders, and collect customer information obvious to your guests? Or does it simply dissolve into the background? A recent report from Modern Restaurant Management says ambient technology is the future of restaurant technology. When you have an interconnected system that integrates new functionality with ease, your technology can blend seamlessly into the experience of eating at your restaurant. There is no need – or consumer desire – for obvious bells and whistles. If you’re able to use your technology to smoothly call up past orders, make informed recommendations based on stored preferences, and then reward consumers without hassle, you’re elevating your service and overall guest experience (and making the technology responsible for it all seem like an afterthought)
If you think about where you were at this time last year or even two years ago, wouldn’t it have been helpful to be able to see into the future? How would you have adjusted your business and the systems you use to support it? Machine learning technology could be the next best thing by literally helping businesses predict the future and make the kinds of subtle day-to-day adjustments that can help them flex with challenges. For example, you may be swimming in data about your business – but do your systems allow you to make sense of it in the moment? Machine learning helps you assess your data so you can take precise, just-in-time actions. That means tracking how guests are ordering and paying today, what food trends they are responding to, and which promotions have the greatest impact on profits.
While technology had been making sweeping changes to the restaurant industry before the pandemic, expect it to play a transformative role as we emerge from it. Many of the systems and tools that had been nice-to-haves a couple of months ago could now provide the limited physical contact needed to keep your employees and guests safe – and your business running. This doesn’t mean investing in new bells and whistles but it does mean finding ways to maximize the technology you currently have and any additional tools that can be used for free. As the National Restaurant Association’s new report Covid-19 Reporting Guidance advises, update your website and use basic text messages to communicate with guests and staff. Use your email list and social media to provide up-to-date information about your current hours, menu changes, reservations and other information that may be helpful, such as approximate wait times. Of course, contactless payment systems, automated ordering functionality and mobile ordering apps can all help too. Be in touch with your POS system provider to ensure you are fully using all of your system’s functionality and any additional features or support your provider is offering right now. Bo Peabody, a tech entrepreneur who helped create the reopening guidelines for Georgia restaurants, told the Spoon that POS companies might soon take such actions as giving restaurants the ability to add a QR code to their check – a means for a guest to pay for a meal with a quick, contactless scan of their phone. (Paytronix and Sevenrooms recently announced new contactless order and payment capabilities, and the restaurant tech company Presto is offering free contactless dining kits for restaurants while supplies last. The company says the kits can be set up in an hour – and without any contracts or costs.)
At the speed technology is evolving, data breaches are becoming increasingly common – and the costs can cripple a business: Transaction Resources estimates that the average small business pays $36,000 to $50,000 for a single data breach. While the various points of connection within your restaurant – from your POS to the sensors monitoring the functioning of your appliances – can improve your efficiency, they may also make your business more vulnerable to cyber threats. To get a handle on your restaurant’s risks, consider using the National Institute for Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework for Critical Infrastructure. Restaurant365 reports that many restaurants are using the framework, which takes you through a five-step process to identify, protect, detect, respond and recover from an incident.
As your kitchen becomes increasingly connected to the Internet, it becomes a bigger target for cybercrime. At The Spoon’s recent Smart Kitchen Summit, panelists who participated in a segment called Hacking the Oven: Cybersecurity and the Connected Kitchen identified three key takeaways to consider as your business adopts new devices to increase efficiency. First, cybersecurity can’t be something you bolt on to your business; rather, it’s important to make it flow through your operation from the start and to have a culture that values it. Second, both manufacturers and end users play a role in securing devices: manufacturers need to build secure devices with easy-to-install updates, and users need to do their part to protect devices with secure passwords. Finally, security is an ongoing process that requires manufacturers (and users) to have a plan to address vulnerabilities as they arise. Panelists expect to see cybersecurity certification labels on appliances in the near future – much like Energy Star rating stickers – to help end users better identify companies with strong cybersecurity records.
The number of internet-enabled devices is expected to reach 75 billion by 2025, or more than triple the number of such devices in use by the end of 2018, according to the technology firm ITProPortal. A technology-driven restaurant owner can adopt internet-enabled devices to monitor and manage everything from the operation’s food waste to its energy use. While these devices promise significant cost savings and efficiencies, their access to your data creates new points of vulnerability. It is increasingly difficult to prevent security breaches as threats become more sophisticated and employees who aren’t adequately trained leave a business exposed to threats. To help manage such threats, the tech security firm ControlScan advises operators to use next-generation firewalls to limit entry points for malware, and to use a managed security service provider that can identify vulnerabilities in a network, investigate and report security breaches, and troubleshoot other network security problems. Whether you outsource your network security or not, being able to keep tabs on your network in those ways is becoming increasingly important as businesses across sectors find that it’s not a question of if a security event will occur, but when.