Restaurant Resiliency: Deploying and Securing New Operational Models

From the expansion of drive-through operations, delivery services and curbside pick-up, to on-lot pop-up restaurants and even satellite locations, restaurants are using technology to survive and, in some cases, thrive in these challenging times.

Restaurants Doubling Down on Drive-Thru, Curbside and Delivery 

According to The NPD Group, take-out and delivery accounted for nearly 50 percent of all restaurant spend in 2019. And now, with 92 percent of all restaurant traffic now being off-premises, restauranteurs who had already integrated digital and omni-channels practices into their businesses are seeing much greater sales volume and repeat visits than those who have been forced into suddenly adopting a digital strategy.

For those restaurants that need to build out or expand their capabilities to meet customer demand, this means installing new hardware or repurposing existing infrastructure that may have previously serviced guest access or internal business operations. But whether a restaurant already had drive-through, curbside, and delivery integrated to their business models or it is just now making the investment, below are a few key considerations to ensure safe and consistent experiences for the customer.

  1. Install wireless access points to provide the best experience for guests and business functions:
    • Hardware should be suited for their environment to ensure continuous operation. Dead spots or slow speeds can hurt business.
    • To protect customers and digital transactions, access points should not be physically accessible to the public
  2. Proper network segmentation is key to security and efficiency
    • Ensure customer traffic is segmented from internal business traffic using different SSIDs or VLANs
    • East/West traffic – traffic that moves laterally across the network – should be blocked wherever possible to avoid unwanted communication between devices
  3. Traffic should be inspected, monitored and secured
    • Traffic should be encrypted where possible, and it should all flow through a firewall for inspection, monitoring, and policy enforcement
    • To avoid network congestion or bottlenecks, network traffic should also be monitored for misuse and policed as needed
    • Finally, protect customers from cybercriminals by scanning for rogue access points, individuals posing as you to initiate man in the middle attacks, and malicious attempts to access your network

Restaurants in New Spaces and Places

Many restaurants, however – mostly those that primarily offered a sit-down dining experience – did not have a drive-through or had limited ability to provide curbside service. For these restaurants, a different model has arisen in the form of pop-up or satellite restaurants. While moving to these new concepts allows restaurants to continue to serve their customers, they also come with their own set sof challenges. These include the need to quickly and easily deploy essential infrastructure.

In areas with limited internet options, SD-WAN solutions are ideal for providing flexible and secure communications between satellite locations and cloud or network-based inventory and transactional resources. Smaller, desktop-based solutions are also very cost-effective. SD-WAN also supports multiple forms of communications, including things like 4G and LTE connections and/or solutions provided by local service providers to ensure that reliable access to broadband can be maintained. A Secure SD-WAN solution goes even further by ensuring secure connectivity to protect data and transactions.

Protecting the Expanded Cloud Attack Surface

In order to meet the changing needs of their customers, restaurants have also had to scale up their cloud presence to support mobile applications, order-ahead, customer analytics, and more. Even those businesses that had previously invested heavily in cloud have seen an influx in traffic that has tested the limits of their cloud infrastructure.

They need to consider three areas to ensure success:

  1. Cloud load-balancing to ensure availability
  2. Web Application Firewalls to secure sensitive data and provide access to the web front-end
  3. Cloud Workload Protection (CWP) to ensure availability and security of critical workloads.

Few if any restaurants anticipated the dramatic effect that the Covid-19 pandemic would have on their business. But it’s clear that restaurants that had already executed on their digital transformation strategies, even if they were just in the beginning stages, have fared better than those that had no digital sales capabilities. The success and, in some cases, viability of restaurants to weather this storm will be decided by the importance that restaurants place on digital technology to further separate themselves from the competition.