Our final post in this series brings us to the topic of data security in restaurants, where, all too often, credit cards go missing, numbers get stored in the wrong place, or both. Not only do you have to keep a vigilant eye on how sensitive data is being handled, but also where it is stored and the strength of the storage’s security. According to Radiant Systems, the cost of a data security breach is enough to disrupt your business, with the credit card brands charging fining you anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000. It happens often enough to scare some would-be restaurant owners away from the idea. Needless to say, it pays to keep everything locked tight and out of sight.

Just how can you protect credit card data effectively? It takes a combination of physical resources and common sense.  A point-of-sale system that is PCI-compliant and a secure data environment are the bare essentials. Of course, you’ll have to set up the two simultaneously to prevent any premature snatching that may occur otherwise.

First, find a POS system that is most capable of connecting to a secure network carrying encrypted traffic and staying connected. A great system can link with wireless devices that waiters can carry around and swipe credit cards at the customer’s table when he pays the tab. An even better system can demonstrate PCI compliance by storing no credit card data on any local device, whether it be a phone, tablet or desktop server, and encrypt the data as it travels. Best of all, the credit card will never leave the customer’s sight, and the customer can rest easy knowing that the card (and he) is safe.

Once you’ve found a system, draw your network plan. Whether it’s wireless or wired, it must be able to support the system reliably. No matter what type of network you implement, be sure to practice sound security principles daily.

As a previous post explained briefly, good restaurants “update their strong passwords regularly, secure their networks [and update those passwords regularly as well], and ensure safe transmission of data to their credit card clearing service.” Maintaining a secure environment is easier than a lot of other restaurant processes, and no extra skills are required to set one up. Be creative in the passwords you give employees to memorize. Use combinations of characters in such a way that makes the password easier to remember. A transliteration of “ilovecutecats” is sure to loved (and maybe less loved) by your employees, some of whom may still be recovering from an unexpected scratch or two.

Taking every step to safeguard your operation and the engine that drives it will prove invaluable for your bottom line and for your continued success. Security, or the lack thereof, can make or break a high-performing enterprise. Implemented properly, it will require only minimal time to maintain and enhance, so you can get on improving the rest of your business with confidence and finesse.

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