11/11/2020
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Executive Insight: Connectivity, Cybersecurity, and Comprehensive Wi-Fi Coverage

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As restaurants scramble to adapt to the new normal, how can technology help by delivering efficiency, security, and ROI?

COVID-19 created a perfect storm of rising operational costs, decreasing customer traffic, and increasing dependency on 3rd party delivery.  Under these challenging market conditions, restaurants have dramatically accelerated their technology roadmaps, implementing mobile/contactless payment, curbside ordering, 3rd party delivery solutions, and much more. In today’s digitally dependent era, the customer and employee experiences are utterly reliant on the restaurant’s network connectivity. For instance, the network can underlie the difference between enthusiastic reviews and harsh criticisms over order time to complete. It can also affect staff turnover, as employees can become frustrated by operations that are inefficient or difficult to execute.  In a market in which restaurants must succeed in converting 3rd party delivery customers into direct customers, the restaurant must have a strong network foundation to support effective operational efficiency. 

Restaurant networks require adequate connectivity, robust cybersecurity, and comprehensive Wi-Fi coverage.  While restaurants do not have control over the internet options available at a site, they always have control over how the connectivity is used. Specifically, Managed SD-WAN solutions are effective in ensuring consistent payment/application performance over dynamic broadband connections while integrating strong cybersecurity defenses. SD-WAN can optimize order-time to fulfill and smooth over operational tasks.  With regards to security, many restaurants fail to meet basic PCI compliance requirements, which only regulates protection of the credit card transactions. It does not cover mission critical elements such as the manager’s backoffice PC.  A cybersecurity data breach will have a devastating impact on customer trust in the restaurant brand. Restaurants must close this threat to their business or risk losing customers and brand reputation as well as the financial loss associated with a data breach. With numerous Wi-Fi interference sources in the kitchen and a new need to cover the parking lots for curbside customer engagement, restaurants must take additional care to ensure adequate Wi-Fi coverage throughout the restaurant property for a satisfying customer experience.  

When it comes to technology, ROI is not only measured by what happens (e.g., sales, customer/employee satisfaction, etc.); it is measured by what doesn’t happen (e.g., data breaches, theft, spoilage, etc.). Technology elevates the restaurant business during difficult market conditions by enhancing customer engagement, magnifying employee performance, and protecting the integrity of the business.

As restaurants adopt and refine off-prem solutions such as pick-up, drive-thru, and delivery, what new challenges, such as security and food safety, does off-prem present? How is technology meeting those challenges?

There is no such thing as an off-line off-prem order.  Unlike a typical POS transaction, which often supports an off-line transaction capability, off-prem solutions are entirely dependent on a functional network connection. When the network fails, the restaurant loses the ability to receive critical data, such as third-party delivery orders, alerts of guest arrival, or loyalty reward information. Internet congestion frequently interferes with off-prem ordering.  Orders may take a much longer time to receive and complete. Managed SD-WAN solutions effectively maintain application performance during congestion on the primary broadband circuit while intelligently employing LTE backup to compensate for total network outages. 

Restaurants are collecting more consumer data than ever before -- how can technology leverage that data to enhance direct-to-consumer communications, personalization, and loyalty?

The restaurant is a rich environment for effective, personalized customer engagement. Real-time analysis of past purchases may inform promotions presented on Guest Wi-Fi splash pages to increase redemption rates. Digital Menu boards may align dynamically with the tastes of the vegetarian vs. carnivore, while reducing the customer’s perceived wait-time with engaging brand content. Wi-Fi presence analytics may proactively warn the restaurant about orders that are taking too long to fulfill. In an operationally challenged COVID-19 market, restaurants need every advantage to provide a satisfying customer experience.