As long as a restaurant is using technology, hackers will use it to their advantage.
As restaurants continue to evolve and become more heavily dependent on technology, cybersecurity becomes more important than ever as well. It is essential that restaurateurs focus on protecting their establishments and the information of their patrons, or they could risk losing their customers. This loss of business can be detrimental, especially as the hospitality industry still struggles to recover after the COVID-19 pandemic.
In this guide, we will discuss why restaurateurs need to take cybersecurity seriously and the steps necessary to keep customer data secure.
Restaurants Are Under Attack
Some restaurant owners may not believe that their establishment could be targeted by hackers, either because they think that they are a small fish in a large pond or that hackers aren’t interested in restaurants. However, the truth of the matter is that cybercriminals go wherever the data is, and when customers are paying with cards and using POS machines, then there is plenty of information for the taking.
Recently, several restaurants have fallen victim to data breaches and cyber-attacks. Earlier this year, hackers attacked a restaurant in Washington and stole over $450,000 from their company accounts. The POS system has been a major issue in recent years, with many restaurants, including Applebee’s, Dunkin’, and Chipotle, getting hit with data breaches that have compromised thousands of customer records.
When a restaurant falls victim to a breach, it causes countless problems. Right now, the average cost for a business to recover after a breach is close to $4 million. This doesn’t even account for the hit that a business’s reputation takes as a result of a breach. When customer trust is violated, consumers will take their business elsewhere.
Needless to say, restaurateurs who prioritize cybersecurity as a preventative standard are simultaneously building customer loyalty. This represents not only a defensive stance against cybercriminals, but an active and natural reason for people to choose you over any other business that isn’t putting its consumers’ protections first.
Understand The Risks
As long as a restaurant is using technology, hackers will use it to their advantage. A significant vulnerability is the Point of Sale (POS) system at an establishment. Cybercriminals can make their way into the system, install malware, and then use remote access to leak hundreds of credit card numbers and other private customer information. To avoid these issues, restaurateurs should prevent outside users from having access to the POS and contact the manufacturer to obtain and install system updates that will catch the latest cyber threats.
Many restaurants also have a website where customers can peruse the menu and order food and drinks online so they can pick them up or have them delivered at a later time. To do so, customers need to input a lot of personal data, including their address, email, and payment information. All of that can be sold on the black market or used to commit additional scams. Restaurant owners must ensure that their website is encrypted, has a solid firewall, and that the website is up to date.
Since every restaurant is different, it is up to owners to understand and identify the particular business risks that may be causing issues at their establishment by performing regular risk assessments. To do so, break down every internal process into smaller parts and look at each component to see if there are any vulnerabilities, including cybersecurity risks. This might be unsecured equipment, employees sharing passwords, or any number of unnecessary points of failure. Also, seek employee feedback as they likely know the systems inside and out, and they may catch things that their managers may not. After the vulnerabilities have been identified, make the proper fixes.
Speaking of employees, it is essential that management takes the time to train every staff member about cybercrime and the signs that they must watch out for to avoid becoming a victim. The issue at many restaurants is that there is a high turnover rate, and many are short-staffed, so owners feel like they do not have the time to train each new employee on cybersecurity because they want to get them out on the floor or behind the cash register as quickly as possible.
That is why it is important that this training takes place during the initial orientation when they are hired. During that training, go over all of the necessary aspects of cybersecurity, from the phishing scams that they may get via email to the steps they need to take if they believe that there is a legitimate threat. Once that training is complete, have each employee sign off on what they learned so they can be held accountable should they let an issue get past them when the signs were clear.
Finally, since it is almost impossible to be aware of every scam and vulnerability, it is a good idea to pay the extra cost for cyber insurance. This guarantees support if a data breach becomes a reality. The insurance typically helps to cover the cost of legal counsel, third-party costs, and assistance in the case of a lawsuit. It is a good idea, and it could pay for itself in the case of a breach.
In the end, it is essential that restaurateurs do everything possible to protect their business from the tactics of cybercriminals. The steps outlined here provide a great starting point.
Jori Hamilton is an experienced writer from the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of topics and, because she spent over six years in the restaurant business before writing full-time, takes a particular interest in covering topics related to the food and beverage industry. To learn more about Jori, you can follow her on Twitter.