Restaurants are notoriously difficult to manage. Unlike many other businesses, there are a lot of moving parts in a restaurant and failure at any one of them can cause problems that will reverberate throughout the operation. Managing a chain of restaurants is even more challenging, but since many of the process kinks that plague single-location restaurants must be ironed out before adding more locations, consistent management – equipped with the right resources – can facilitate duplicating the successful prototype.
Multi-unit restaurants often result from the success of one concept and are an indicator of business growth. While restaurant operations may be well-managed, there can be pervasive network management issues that rear their ugly heads only after the multi-unit concept is launched. Some rely on multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) for connecting their wide area network (WAN), but with an SD WAN platform, restaurants can have enterprise-level security and performance for their business at a much lower cost.
Here are some of the difficulties of running a successful restaurant chain and network strategies to make operations run more smoothly across your locations.
Technology Challenges faced by chain restaurant IT teams
In addition to everyday issues relating to staffing, menu planning, ordering, inventory management, and cost containment that affect single location restaurants, chains experience potential problems with schedule and time management, communication, network security, data handling, and PCI compliance.
Time allocation and scheduling
A restaurant’s success greatly depends on whether or not optimal customer experiences occur. Consumers today increasingly rely on online reviews and recommendations. Positive reviews correlate to the duration of a meal and service. If customer expectations are met or exceeded, the restaurant will get a good review online. However, if food takes too long or there is inconsistent service, it is likely that a negative review will make its way online. Ensuring high-quality service requires restaurants to hire, retain, and schedule competent staff.
Like many other businesses, restaurants experience communication gaps with their teams. Multiple locations complicate matters since in-person conversations are not always possible. A wide variety of issues can cause delays between one restaurant and another when they share resources. Proper and consistent lines of communication keep distributed locations of a restaurant chain on the same page.
Issues with network security
Restaurants often provide Wi-Fi to their customers as a convenience. Because this practice is widespread, many customers expect this amenity. And there are good reasons for you to offer Wi-Fi, as it can encourage customers to sign up for loyalty rewards and provide other marketing-related benefits to the restaurant. However, several threats exist, which make implementing secure networks a priority.
Handling large amounts of data
Beyond network connectivity as a convenience, multi-unit restaurants rely on their networks for operations, payment card processing, and communication with other sites. Most restaurants follow a seasonal business cycle, be it a summer spike experienced by a location near a vacation destination or a holiday season increase when a restaurant is near shopping venues. This cycle can cause spikes in network traffic and the need for scalable solutions and reliable quality-of-service (QoS). On-site solutions may be too costly for restaurants with cyclical swings of business, especially when all locations within the chain don’t share the same cycles.
Lastly, the Verizon Data Breach Investigation (DBIR) report found that POS intrusions were more than 40 times more common at accommodation and food-services businesses than other industries. And Payment Card Industry (PCI) standards are one area in which a majority of restaurants fail. This is troublesome since these standards are roadmaps for ensuring a high level of overall network security, in addition to protecting vulnerable customer payment card data. Noncompliance can cost a restaurant its customers, loss of credit card privileges, and considerable fines.
How a cloud-managed platform solves these challenges
For each of these problems, a cloud-managed platform offers easy, corresponding solutions. Whether it involves automating PCI-required scans and logging or supporting network traffic of today and tomorrow, a cloud-based network management platform is the glue that connects multi-unit restaurant locations, creating seamless and consistent operations. Here’s how:
A single dashboard centralizes the management of every site
The restaurant industry is experiencing a digital transformation. Some of the recent digital innovations for restaurants include self-service kiosks, smart kitchen devices, and robot chefs. These new devices – along with other more common IP-enabled devices- need to be connected, managed and monitored efficiently. A centralized network management dashboard with visibility of all your locations is essential and should be part of any network management platform.
With comprehensive visibility into every location, your IT department should be able to remotely manage, monitor, and troubleshoot any connected device and also maintain security policies to protect the POS environment.
Connecting ‘internet of things’ devices securely
IoT devices are indispensable in the restaurant world. As an example, coolers and other equipment can be connected and monitored remotely, allowing centralized monitoring of the temperature of each unit. Faulty refrigeration equipment is a major contributor to loss from spoilage, the ability to connect and monitor their status has a direct bearing on profit. Other IoT devices include digital signage, cameras, and security systems, and time-recording devices for payroll purposes.
Automation is already applied to many aspects of restaurant operations: inventory control, business analytics, device/equipment monitoring, security systems, and KDS systems. With a centralized monitoring and management dashboard, IT or operations can automate network and operations processes based on business criteria and receive automated updates on the status of devices and applications and receive auto-generated reports, notifications, and alerts.
Some of the automated processes that give time back to IT and network managers include PCI DSS scanning and reporting, Internet connection status and alerts (if a connection is lost and/or failed-over to a backup connection), security system monitoring and alerts, or alerting for the status of any device, connection, or cable.
Better network security
Of course, one of the most impactful benefits of an SD-WAN is network security. Cloud-centric SD-WAN delivers enterprise-level security standards, such as end-to-end encryption, network scanning, intrusion detection, and access controls and monitoring. When coupled with compliance and policy management, cloud-managed security is ideal for busy IT teams who need to support growth objectives. Rather than worrying about network security or trying to wall-in your networks at the expense of cloud-managed network features, put security in the hands of a seasoned managed service provider that takes on the complexity of network security and management.
In addition to top-of-the-line security practices, cloud-based solutions are scalable. For the restaurant business that is growing and adding new locations, a cloud-centric platform makes it simpler to deploy network configurations. A managed service provider should also take adding new broadband for each location off your hands and manage the procurement, break/fix, and billing for you. All of this expert support comes at a lower cost than adding more in-house administrators.
Simplifying PCI compliance
For busy IT teams, PCI compliance is often seen as a burden that their business must adhere to in order to take card payments. The PCI DSS standards function as an excellent network security framework. To simplify your PCI workload, engage a level one PCI-certified managed services provider (MSP) who works with other restaurant chains and multi-site retail outlets. You will benefit from their knowledge and experience and reduce the complexity of managing your PCI compliance in-house. Your MSP will have a built-in foundation for security and compliance, including tools that simplify PCI requirements.
Restaurant chains often grow from a single successful business model. When a popular eatery translates success into multiple locations, additional management and operations concerns arise. Don’t let your network become a headache. Engage an MSP with multi-unit network experience, and a cloud-managed platform with enterprise-level security, site-to-site communication, 24x7x365 network, and security monitoring, and network management, and compliance tools. When you engage an MSP, they take on the complexities of network management and security so your team can support the business and focus on revenue-generating technologies.
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