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Preventing Cyber Intrusions

Monday, September 14th, 2015

Data breaches can happen to anyone, from large multi-location restaurants to mom-and-pop spots, so protect yourself with these tips

By Ellen Hartman

The idea that cyber-thieves would target a Dairy Queen probably seemed laughable once. But that’s just what happened in 2014 when a malware called Backoff infected 395 Dairy Queen stores nationwide, along with more than 1,000 other businesses, including P.F. Chang’s and Jimmy John’s locations. Hackers exploited a weakness in point-of-sale remote access tools to steal customer credit cardholder data.

When a breach like the ones attributed to Backoff happen, the ramifications go beyond the immediate financial impact to profits. Affected restaurants also face the risk of losing customer trust. Stores in Georgia, for example, are required by law to immediately inform consumers about breaches, defined as “the unauthorized acquisition of electronic data that compromises the security, confidentiality or integrity of personal information.”

Chick-fil-A recently faced such a situation. In December 2014, reports that the Georgia-based chain might be the common connection for a data breach impacting almost 9,000 debit and credit users surfaced. Chick-fil-A issued a statement in response promising that guests would not be liable for any fraudulent charges and that Chick-fil-A would provide for free identity protection services, including credit services, to affected customers. In the end, however, Chick-fil-A’s investigation revealed no evidence it was compromised, and the chain issued another statement saying it had “no reason to believe that any customer’s payment information was stolen or at risk of being stolen from Chick-fil-A.”

Incidents like those are why the issue of how to protect consumer data has become an area of great interest to lawmakers and lobbyists on the state and national level. And with good reason. Credit card fraud cost U.S. consumers and businesses more than $6 billion in 2014.

“We are seeing several bills on the hill intended to direct merchants on how to prevent and handle credit card breaches,” says Laura Knapp Chadwick, director of commerce and entrepreneurship at the National Restaurant Association (NRA). “As an industry, we want to have a voice and show that we’re doing what we need to do to protect our customers’ data.”

To that end, the NRA is developing a set of new foodservice-specific resources. Those will debut in October of this year. In the meantime, we talked to Chadwick about the ways restaurateurs can prevent and respond to breaches.

Two-Step Prevention

  1. Become PCI compliant. The first line of defense against would-be hackers is making sure your payment operations are Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) compliant. There are 12 requirements, ranging from installing and maintaining a firewall to restricting physical access to customer credit card data.

“The process can be time- and capital-intensive, but the likelihood that you’re going to be breached decreases significantly,” Chadwick says. “And if you aren’t compliant and there is a breach, the credit companies could fine you out of existence.”

  1. Invest in enterprise security. PCI compliance covers the processing of payments. But restaurants store data for up to 90 days in case of customer disputes. Hackers know this.

The good news is that such attacks are now preventable.

“The widely published ‘best practices’ are effective,” Chadwick says. “And the good news is there are experts who can help.”

Enterprise security best practices include:

  • Application Whitelisting. Create a list of applications authorized to run to protect your computers and networks from harmful software.
  • Application/Operation Systems Patching. Track, download and apply security updates to your computers on a regular basis.
  • Restrict Administrative Privileges. Limit administrative rights to only those who need them, then ask them to limit high-risk activities such as browsing or e-mailing from third-party accounts.

Implementing and optimizing these practices protects your hardware and network from infection by preventing malware from exploiting weaknesses. Think of it in terms of your home. Whitelisting is an invitation to enter. Patches are the locks that keep unwanted intruders out and administrators hold the keys.

A Strong Response

Industry best practices for handling a breach are also effective, Chadwick says. She suggests restaurateurs familiarize themselves with resources like the Weil’s “Security Breach Notification Laws Data Privacy Survey 2014,” which outlines a plan of action should a breach occur.

Weil suggests the following:

  1. Secure Your System. Prevent further data loss by working with cyber-security experts to isolate any malware and fix any breaches.
  2. Analyze the Breach. Work to understand what type of information was comprised, the risk to consumers, who needs to be notified and who is responsible for related costs.
  3. Implement a Communications Plan. Prepare to relay information to the public and regulatory bodies in a consistent and strategic manner.
  4. Understand Your Liability and Rights. Speak with legal counsel to determine if civil suits are a possibility.

Chadwick urges operators to be as vigilant about prevention and advocacy as they are with food safety in their stores. “It’s about continuous education and monitoring,” she says. “You wouldn’t check the temperature on your refrigerator once then forget about it. Same thing with your network.”

Ellen Hartman, APR, Fellow PRSA, is the CEO of Hartman Public Relations, a full-service public relations agency specializing in the foodservice Industry. Hartman has experience working for Coca-Cola, Concessions International, Chili’s, Huddle House, Frist Watch, Fresh To Order, Billy Sims BBQ and Uncle Maddio’s and many QSR brands including Popeyes, Church’s and Arby’s. An industry leader for more than 25 years, Hartman is active in the Women’s Foodservice Forum and Les Dames d ’Escoffier International and has served on the board of the Georgia State University School of Hospitality. She earned her APR accreditation from the Public Relations Society of America and is a member of PRSA’s Fellow program for senior accomplished professionals.



Ready to Book Your Ticket for Dinner?

Saturday, August 1st, 2015

By Charles Charles MarvilMarvil

High-end restaurants often face the dilemma of “no-shows” and have used several creative ways of preventing this from happening. Unfortunately, the methods used, requiring the guest to provide a credit card number in advance, calling the reservation the day before to confirm and emailing a confirmation have not prevented the customer from changing his or her mind at the last moment.

When this happens in a high-end restaurant with few seats and high average checks, the effect can be damaging to the restaurant’s revenue and overall profitability. Taking a cue from the airline industry, Nick Kokonas, co-owner of Alinea, Next and The Aviary in Chicago, has created a ticketing system, Tock Software, (, that allows the customer to pre-purchase a number of seats and prix-fixe meals, thereby eliminating the economic impact of a no-show. Much like an airline, if you miss your flight/meal, you will need to rebook your ticket/dinner.

That this system benefits the restaurant is without question, however, according to Kokonas, there are also benefits to the customer, primarily transparency. In the traditional reservation booking model, a customer calls a restaurant and is frequently told, “No, I am sorry we cannot accommodate your party of 4 at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday night.”

The frustration level is significant for both the customer and the restaurateur who would like to accommodate more guests, but cannot. With the adoption of the Tock software, however, all available times and table sizes are outlined clearly on the web, and a guest can choose what available time is most suitable. Frustration is reduced, and the reservation is booked much more efficiently, with no back and forth calls or emails.

The Tock website notes that operators will enjoy the benefit of “big data.”

“There is a big difference between parsing data — how many people ordered this menu item vs. that, red wine vs cocktails, etc. — and offering up actionable data,” Kokonas says. “Check average IMO is a worthless statistic, and yet pretty much every restaurant tracks that. Here’s why: Restaurant ABC has a check average of $45pp. By changing their menu around, they now average $55pp. Looks like improvement. It’s even the case that they’ve kept the same number of customers, so revenue has gone up. However, the labor to produce the new menu has changed a great deal, and while they are only open an hour later per night (people are staying longer) the staff is also getting in earlier in the day. So at the end of the month, your POS data looks great, yet your EBITDA is lower.

“Tock tracks five points of time: arrival, seated, first food, last food, egress,” Kokonas adds. “Then we compare that over time to optimize the revenue per seat minute. This may mean, as it did at Aviary, that we should seat more three-course tastings between 6 and 7 and not even start a la carte until 7:15. Very counterintuitive, but [it] had a huge improvement in revenue per seat minute. It’s about yield management, not solely increase in revenue. And of course, the reduction in no-shows, on time arrivals, etc. is improved significantly by booking with Tock.”

Tock software works well with high-end reservation-only restaurants as well as being adaptable to less high-end, more traditional restaurants, and, in the case of The Aviary, bars.

So how does the system interface with POS systems, and how is a “deposit ticket” credited in bars?

“It’s very simple,” Kokonax says. “We issue a report via Tock crediting each deposit ticket to a check. When the server has the final a la carte bill, they simply indicate in the POS which deposit type was made and it subtracts that amount from the bill and notes it.”

The software isn’t just for high-end, reservation-only restaurants.

“Tock makes sense for all restaurants that take reservations because it is web-based, has a super clean and modern interface, is hardware agnostic and saves a great deal of money vis a vis competing systems,” he says. “More importantly it allows a restaurant to create ‘experiences’ rather than reservations, so they can easily create and market items like a chefs’ tasting menu, kitchen table, private dining or special events, and co-mingle those simply with ordinary zero-cost reservations.”

What also sets Tock apart from other, similar options is its ability to sync across restaurants within a restaurant group, not just for individual locations.

“We had cases where a great Next customer who had been in 20+ times arrives at Alinea, and the systems we had in place would not share information,” he says. “So we’ve now built Tock by restaurant group, not only restaurant. That was a huge step for us, and I believe it will solve that problem. Ultimately we want to know if a great customer comes into one of our places regardless of whether that’s in Chicago or eventually NYC or Singapore.”

Tock software is being deployed in restaurants in Chicago, San Francisco, Arizona, New York and soon in Yountville at The French Laundry. Kokonas says there are two restaurants in Atlanta that will begin using the software this summer.

The software is priced at $695/month/restaurant and is hardware neutral. Statistics provided by Tock software show that software users reduce no-show percentages from approximately 12-14 percent down to 1-3 percent, indicating that the ROI is significant in most cases. Additional data analysis and menu implementation, as shown above, also provides an additional ROI.

The question now is whether this system of booking a table, like booking an airline reservation, will catch on.


Pouring On Innovations – Stats and Novo Cucina

Thursday, July 30th, 2015

By Helen K. Kelley

While restaurant owners are always seeking out ways to increase efficiencies and improve the bottom line, they are also continuously working to enhance the customer’s experience and satisfaction. New and evolving technologies are providing restaurant owners and managers with innovative ways to achieve these goals.

Tapping Into Potential

Legacy Restaurant Partners - Jeff Sime

Jeff Sime

One area where technology has helped make the diner’s experience more positive and improved the restaurant’s bottom line is in beverages. There are several self-serving beer and wine dispensers on the market that can help make the diner’s experience more enjoyable, track what beers and wines are popular and how much is consumed, and enhance the waitstaff’s ability to serve customers well.

STATS Food + Drinks in downtown Atlanta serves a lot of beer. Located in the heart of the city’s tourism district – which includes the Georgia Aquarium, the College Football Hall of Fame, the National Center for Civil & Human Rights and more – and a short walk from the Phillips Arena and Georgia Dome, it welcomes lots of tourists and sports fans alike.

The restaurant features five bars, 70 high-definition TVs and nearly 16,000 square feet of restaurant and private event space. It also features table-top beer dispensers built into nearly a dozen of its tables.

Seven years ago, the restaurant was the first in the U.S. to install TapTable units, which feature two kegs and taps through which diners may self-pour their own beers without ever leaving their seat. After a contained hood fire caused the restaurant to close for repairs last fall, the restaurant’s team decided to upgrade their beer systems to the TableTender beer dispensing system (

TableTender is a long-draw glycol-cooled beer system with taps located on the tables. The kegs are remotely located inside a cooler. and the beer lines are run out to the tables, hidden in the floor, through walls or in the ceiling of the establishment. Glycol, a liquid chemical that can maintain relatively low temperatures, is circulated throughout the entire piping network to ensure the beer is ice cold once it is poured into the glass.

TableTender monitors the amount of beer poured to provide accurate and user-friendly reporting. Each table has its own display, featuring the quantity of ounces that have been poured from the tap, and records real-time information. Flow meters and valves, designed specifically for beer, allow the system to control and record the flow. The dispense information is also transmitted to the TableTender software, which allows management to view dispense data and run reports.

The TableTender beer dispensing system has increased both pouring efficiency and guest satisfaction at STATS Food + Drinks, according to Jeff Sime, vice president of operations for Legacy Restaurant Partners, which operates STATS and multiple other restaurants in the Atlanta area.

“We upgraded to the TableTender system so that we could monitor and enhance the beer service at our tap tables at Stats,” he says. “There are two separate taps available at each table – one dispenses a common domestic brand of beer and the other dispenses a craft brand. Guests can choose to sit at a table that has a beer they prefer or would like to try.”

Orders are placed and regulated through a tabletop iPad system that shows guests exactly how much they’re drinking, down to the ounce. With its regulating and reporting features, TableTender ensures that management has the necessary controls on the system to promote responsible drinking.

The benefits for the restaurant are threefold – it keeps waitstaff from having to constantly bring refills, which then allows them to better attend to their guest’s other needs, and every drop is paid for by the customers, including any pour off. Plus, managers are able to track trends in customer preferences, comparing sales of different beers as well as determining which tap tables have the highest sales.

If a particular beer isn’t selling well, management can change out that keg for a different beer. Tabs are run at a main portal and later, the information is taken from that portal and run through the restaurant’s POS system to generate the customers’ bills. Sime says the system’s tracking capability is probably its most important feature.

“TableTender provides an inventory reconciliation function that tracks every ounce of beer that’s being dispensed through the draft lines at each table,” he says. “It eliminates the possibility of human error, such as overpouring a glass or accidentally filling a glass with the wrong beer and having to discard it,” he says. “We know exactly how many ounces have been consumed, and the customer is billed for every ounce that he or she pours from the tap.”

As for the guests, they experience the convenience of immediately pouring a glass of their chosen beer, without having to wait for a server. Plus, they don’t have to leave their table. In turn, this self-serve capability creates a more efficient system for servers.

“The server doesn’t have to take the order, go to the bar, wait for the bartender to fill the order and then return to the table,” Sime says. “Servers are able to spend more quality time with the guests, ensuring that they’re being hosted appropriately, and attend to their other duties more efficiently.”

When asked if there were any challenges in implementing TableTender, Sime says there have been only a few small difficulties, such as the need to change out kegs of beer more frequently for larger parties.

“The efficiencies far outweigh any of the smaller issues we’ve encountered with the technology,” he says. “Making the upgrade to the TableTender technology was a great decision.”

Uncorking Opportunity

riccardo ullio

Riccardo Ullio

Novo Cucina, the new restaurant concept by Atlanta chef Ricardo Ullio, features an innovative way to both serve wine and save on the bottom line.

Using the Enomatic wine system, the restaurant’s wines are held unoxidized and at the perfect temperature, extending freshness and preserving them for up to four weeks after opening. This gives restaurants the freedom to expand their wine list or even offer tasting menus without worrying about wasting a whole bottle of wine when it’s ordered by the glass.

When a diner orders a glass of wine, the system dispenses the liquid directly from the bottle using inert gas preservation, preserving the flavors and characteristics of the wine for more than three weeks as if the bottle had just been opened. Waitstaff can input the exact amount of wine to be poured each time. This allows guests at Novo Cucina to sample its wine offerings before deciding on a glass.

The system helps regulate portion control, allowing the restaurant to virtually eliminate waste due to overpouring or mistakes in selection. And, it also self-cleans the pouring spouts after each pour to ensure maximum hygiene.

“We offer a refreshing list of boutique wines at our wine bar,” Ullio says. “The Enomatic ensures that our guests can sample whatever they desire and then enjoy a perfect glass of wine, every time.”

Ullio and partner Mike di Paolo also implemented a unique card system that allows patrons an easy way to explore the restaurant’s many offerings.

The restaurant features a “greatest hits” of menu items from Ullio’s other intown Atlanta restaurants, Sotto Sotto and Fritti. It also has a unique way for diners to pay for their meals.

“The card, which is the size of a credit card, can be used for your tab from the moment you walk into the restaurant,” Ullio says. “Whether you order something from our wine bar or gelato counter, enjoy cocktails or coffee, or place an order from your table, each transaction is recorded on the card for the duration of your visit. Then, you simply pay on your way out.”

Di Paolo engineered the card system, which has created an unprecedented level of convenience for customers. In addition to keeping track of customers’ tabs, the cards provide an easy way to create separate checks for individual customers or divided parties.

“The card removes the worry of transferring items among customers,” Ullio says. “With individual cards, customers don’t have the hassle of dividing up the check at the end of their meal – and they only pay once.”


New Fresh To Order App Now Available

Friday, September 26th, 2014

Fresh2OrderFresh To Order (f2o) now offers a new mobile app, where guests can pay for their meals and earn rewards through their cell phones. The Fresh To Order App is now available through the Apple App Store and Google Play for iOS (iPhone) and Android platforms. The Fresh To Order App will integrate with Apple Passbook (Apple’s mobile wallet) and Google Wallet beginning in October. Fresh To Order will accept NFC (Near Field Communication) payments through the app starting in 2015.

The app also offers a loyalty program and exclusive rewards. For a limited time, guests can get a $3 credit at sign-up and earn an additional $2 credit by referring a friend. Guests will also receive $10 credit on their next meal when they have $100 in purchases.

“Fresh To Order continues to innovate our menu, service model and now its digital platform by introducing a mobile app which helps us maintain leadership in the “fast-fine” niche,” said Pierre Panos, CEO of Fresh To Order. “Whether they’re looking for the closest location, want to preview our latest menu options or use their phones for payment, we’re providing our guests with a rich digital experience in the palm of their hand.”

With the new app, guests will be able to quickly browse the selection of cooked-to-order panini sandwiches, salads and chef-inspired entrees, including grilled salmon and brown sugar roasted pork loin.

Mobile apps continue to be a growing part of the restaurant experience. According to, 32 percent of Millennials look at restaurant menus online via a smart phone. With a spending power of $1.3 trillion, it becomes a business imperative that restaurants offer a variety of relevant ways for them to access their favorite restaurants.


Retail Data Systems Deploys End-to-End Encryption and Tokenization on the NCR Aloha POS

Friday, September 5th, 2014

Retail Data Systems, a NCR Aloha POS provider, recently deployed TransArmor, an end-to-end encryption, tokenization security solution, in production for the first time.

Utilizing a tamper proof connected terminal encryption device integrated through the Aloha POS, which collaborates with vault decryption technology at First Data, TransArmor makes the data of no use to fraudsters and hackers from the time of swipe, or EMV chip read, through authorization, and token issuance. Since the data is never exposed in the clear, reformatted and scraped from memory, or stored at the merchant, there is nothing to steal. This particularly deters the remote access breach attempts from organized crime groups across the globe.

“Retail Data Systems collaborated with NCR Corporation and First Data Corporation to deploy a solution that removes card data from the customer environment while at the same time reducing merchant liability, and further lowering PCI reporting effort requirements while introducing token technology that can increase sales and loyalty,” says Jeff Barrett, General Manager of Retail Data Systems Payment Services Division.

For more information, visit


In the Driver’s Seat

Monday, August 25th, 2014

From Restaurant INFORMER, 2014, Vol. 4, Issue 1

By Helen K. Kelley

Anthony Joseph

Anthony Joseph, president, Concessions International

With an increasingly mobile population, smaller and more portable technology and the proliferation of social media, restaurants today are focusing on new ways to provide convenience and create interaction with their customers.

Convenience and Comfort

Concessions International, LLC recently installed iPad digital menus at two of its locations within Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The eTouchMenu interactive technology is available at Dos Equis Explorers Lounge and Samuel Adams Atlanta Brew House, the first restaurants at the airport to offer tabletop tablet ordering. At Dos Equis, there is a secured iPad available at every seat in the bar, and Samuel Adams offers the iPad at every bar seat and at seating along the bar area.

The menus, which are interactive and intuitive, were custom-designed by Menu Masters. Guests browse through the selections and enter their orders right at their own seat or table. The waitstaff is alerted to ordering activity and requests for service through a wireless paging service.

Anthony Joseph, president of Concessions International, says the technology offers many benefits, including the ability to show the restaurant’s entire menu.

“On a print menu, you can’t possibly display everything you offer,” he says. “But on a digital menu, we’re able to show the customer every item, accompanied by a great photo. It also gives us the capability to show brand and nutritional information.”

When time is of the essence, the digital menu offers customers a faster, more efficient way to order their beverages and food. They simply enter their selections by touching the screen.

Dos Equis Explorers Lounge allows customers to not only order, but also pay for their food and drink through the iPad menu – a big plus for air travelers who are often in a hurry.

“On average, the bill-paying process involves about three visits by the server to the table – delivering the bill, collecting the customer’s payment and then providing change or receipt. In an environment that is high volume and very busy, paying the bill can take up precious minutes for people who are rushed and anxious to move on,” says Joseph. “The option to pay through the tabletop menu gives customers the convenience of immediate payment, along with the security of having control of their credit card at all times.”

Basil Banko, vice president of information technology for Concessions International, says that the interactive menus have been successful so far, but adds that there have been a few challenges.

“Most business travelers really like the convenience of the digital menu – they can place their orders without waiting, enjoy their food and beverages, and get on their way promptly,” he explains. “But we’ve found that some older travelers haven’t embraced it, probably because it’s new. So we offer a print menu to those who don’t want to use the iPad. And it’s the same with servers – some love the iPad and some would prefer to give customers a regular menu. That’s just human nature. But the majority of customers and employees seem pleased with the technology.”

The digital menu has increased some efficiencies for both the Dos Equis and Samuel Adams locations, especially in getting orders to the kitchen. Banko adds that Dos Equis is experiencing the benefit of customers having the option to pay by credit card through the tabletop tablet.

“Travelers want to get in and out quickly, and the tablet gives them the ability to do just that by paying immediately,” he explains. “After observing the customers’ reactions at Dos Equis, we’ve decided to implement the payment option at Samuel Adams, too.”

David Shaw, CEO of Postec, Inc., a company that provides customized point of sale (POS) technology, says that an integrated system works best in locations that have high volume and need to provide fast service – such as airports and fast casual dining establishments.

“With the tablet, the consumer is actually serving as the order entry person – self-service. This process speeds up service delivery time and allows the POS system to do the ‘heavy lifting’ of kitchen output as well as report sales activity,” he says, adding that this type of technology is steadily growing in popularity. “The adoption rate is increasing as the number of tablet users grows along with their knowledge of how to use a touchpad. It’s much like the implementation of automatic teller machines at banks or the pay-at-the-pump option at gas stations.”

Interactive Purchasing Trends

Charles Marvil, corporate operations manager for Bhojanic Restaurant Group, is conducting research on information technology (IT) purchasing decisions made by restaurants as part of his requirements for a Master’s degree in HRMT (Hotel, Restaurant Management and Tourism) from Auburn University. The study focuses on the decisions to purchase or delay purchase of technologies by small-to-medium sized restaurant companies in Georgia.

“Based on an analysis of current trends, including a yearly survey conducted by Hospitality Technology magazine, my hypothesis is that the economy kept IT purchases down in the past couple of years. Restaurants were a little skittish about investing capital in a new system or upgrades when their current system wasn’t broken or they didn’t truly need it,” Marvil explains. “Now that the economy is on the upswing, restaurateurs are starting to reconsider those purchases and moving forward with them. And most people feel safe looking at hardware and software that will upgrade their POS systems and/or allow them to interact with their customers.”

Marvil’s survey asks participants to name the pieces of technology they feel are most critical to purchase for their operations, and he will collect data about secondary and tertiary purchases as well. So far, the emphasis seems to be on purchasing interactive software that allows the restaurant to push out information – such as special deals or new menu items – to the customer via email, text or social media or allows the customer to directly place an order.

“Being able to send out information to the customer’s smartphone is an immediate marketing tool,” states Marvil. “It’s a faster, more personal interface between restaurant and customer.”


PCI Compliance: Hope on the Horizon

Monday, November 12th, 2012

By Christy Simo

At the Georgia Restaurant Association annual meeting in June, several experts in the POS industry sat down to discuss why it’s so important for restaurants in Georgia to validate compliance with PCI requirements, some tools to help you, and what’s on the horizon. Here is a synopsis of their conversation.

According to 2012 Verizon report, 54 percent of data breaches in the past year have been in the hospitality industry, and that’s increased over prior years.

“You are a restaurant. You want to serve people and make them happy,” says Brett Lockwood, partner with Smith Gambrell & Russell who chairs the firm’s Technology Transactions Practice.“But you also have PCI security data issues to deal with, and that’s just the reality.”

“It really is important to check your business financially,” says Larry R. Godfrey, director of sales engineering for Heartland Payment Solutions. “Your customers are trusting you with their data. It really is your job to protect that.”

The Current Dangers

The main issue in today’s hacker and credit card theft world is that the U.S. still uses a credit card with a magnetic stripe – that black bar on the back of every card.

“What makes it so dangerous is that all your personal data is stored on that mag stripe, such as your name, your phone number, your address,” says Walt Davis, general manager of Retail Data Systems Southeast. “As a restaurateur, you’re responsible for protecting your consumers just as much as some of these big companies.”

In 2002, credit card theft reach epidemic levels in the U.S. So in 2003, Congress passed the FACT Act (Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act), which prohibited businesses from printing more than five digits of any customer’s credit card number or expiration date on a receipt.

If a breach occurs, you have the option to do nothing, but it could ruin your business. In a nutshell, your bank will contact you that they have detected a credit card breach that has originated at your restaurant. You’ll contact your internet provider and credit card processor, and you’ll be required to stop processing credit cards immediately. You may have to pay a forensic auditor, who will find your security holes.

“That forensic audit is going to cost you anywhere from $8,000 to $12,000 minimum,” Davis says.

You’ll also contact your POS provider, and they will have to re-secure the site. You’ll have to buy a brand new computer server, because your old server is now evidence of a federal crime and is now federal property.

Not only that, but if you are a small business that experiences a breach, you will then be treated as a Tier 1 company to ensure measures are taken to keep a breach from happening again.

“Tier 1s have to go through this validation process every year that can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Even if you’re a Tier 4 that suffers a breach, you’re going to be held accountable for doing that for some time in the foreseeable future,” Godfrey says. “So if you want to take cards after the breach, you’re going to be treated like a Tier 1. You’re going to have to pay a company to come in and do an audit every quarter.”

Davis notes that on top of these costs, the restaurateur is also liable for the fraudulent charges – i.e. they are the one who must pay the customer back for the charges that showed up on their credit card statement.

Still, one of the most prevalent ways to steal credit card information today is through a RAM scraper, which accesses the credit card data on your RAM at the moment before it is re-encrypted. The criminal can use many ways to access your computer and install malware, including obtaining passwords or accessing your computer via Facebook or email. “This is the most common pattern of theft that’s being used in most restaurants,” Davis says.

“Why should you care about credit card fraud?” asks Davis. “Because you, the merchant, will be held responsible. Not your bank, not your POS provider, and not your credit card company.”

And that can get expensive.

There are four tiers of merchants based on the number of transactions they do annually. Most restaurants, aside from national chains, fall into Tier 4. While Tiers 1 through 3 are required to validate 100 percent compliance, they must spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to do so. Independent businesses like most of the restaurants in Georgia, however, cannot afford to spend that kind of money to validate compliance. But it’s important that they do so. The restaurants are expected to self-assess themselves and are still held liable if fraudulent activity occurs.

“The reason you have to do it is when you sign your merchant agreement with your credit card processor, regardless of who that processor is, there’s a section on data security and privacy,” Davis says. “It clearly states that you are to do the following things to be compliant: You’re supposed to have a firewall, you’re supposed to have data security, and you’re supposed to complete a self-assessment questionnaire.”

The catch-22 is that they will not ask you for proof of these things until a breach has already occurred.

“Most merchants totally underestimate credit card fraud and the consequences that follow,” Davis says. “Those fines cover the costs banks incur when they have to reissue the cards,” Godfrey says. “But the main cost is the buyback. Not only do you incur these costs, you’re responsible for paying back that consumer who had that fraudulent charge filed against them. So that, a lot of times, is the biggest expense.”

For these reasons and more, it’s so important to validate your compliance now and not after a breach occurs – not just for monetary reasons, but for your restaurant’s integrity.

“There are companies out there who will help you with the compliance aspects,” Davis says, “but nothing can help with the loss of your brand.

“This is serious business,” Davis says. “It is not about filling out these forms just to make the processors happy. Validate your compliance. There is no other option. As a restaurateur, you owe it to yourselves, your merchant and your customers to protect their data.”

New Technologies

Thankfully, there are several new technologies on the horizon that can help restaurants protect their customer’s data better. One has been around for more than a decade in Europe and is headed our way this spring.

“The primary thing about the European payment system is the microprocessor chip that’s embedded into the cards,” says Mike Seymour, COO of Postec.

Known as EMV (Europay, Mastercard, Visa), the processing system reads a 1” square chip in the corner of the card when you insert the card into the reader.

“The chip card systems based on EMV are being phased in across the world with names such as IC credit or, most commonly, Chip and Pin,” Seymour says, adding that 30 percent of payments worldwide today are EMV payments.“What that refers to is the microprocessor chip that’s embedded in the card, plus the four-digit pin that the consumer enters at the time of the transaction, like you would in the U.S. with a debit card transaction.”

Sixteen years after the development of the EMV and 12 years after its launch in Europe, Visa announced plans in October 2011 to push the U.S. toward adopting the EMV standard, and Mastercard has also followed suit, Seymour says. The initial push by Visa is to have all credit card processors in the U.S. support EMV by April 1, 2013.

“In dollar terms, credit card fraud represents nearly 7 cents for every $100 of debit or signature transaction in the U.S.,” Seymour says. “Based on EMV rollouts in other countries, fraud can be expected to drop by 50 percent or more once the transition is complete.”

Are EMV and smart cards enough to completely protect your business when they come online next year? Not necessarily. “Smart cards will prevent someone from using a fraudulent card. It’s much more difficult to make a counterfeit smart card than it is to make a counterfeit mag stripe card. Hopefully it will cut down on the amount of cards that come into your business that are fraudulent,” Godfrey says. “That’s really the power behind the EMV and smart cards.”

The transition won’t happen overnight, Seymour cautions. “Everybody’s going to have to replace all their card readers,” he says, adding that for a while, the readers will be able to accept all kinds of cards as the country transitions. “Ten, 15 years from now, mag stripe cards will be extinct.”

For now, there are still several things you can do to protect your restaurant from hackers and credit card thieves – and for good reason.

“A lot of folks think that hackers are just going after big business,” says Heartland’s Godfrey. “But what’s happened over the past few years, is that [large] Tier 1 merchants have done a pretty good job of securing their networks and systems, so really where the hackers are going now is where the doors are unlocked. They know with a lot less effort, they can get into a smaller business.

“They’re not going to get as much data back, but it’s a lot easier for them,” Godfrey says. “So that mid-tier merchant, with 11-100 employees, is really right in the crosshairs of the hackers.”

Along with the Chip and Pin card, tokenization and anti-encryption are two other methods that can help reduce the risk of your restaurant being hacked.

“The important thing to know about these technologies is that they’re not mutually exclusive of each other,” Godfrey says. “In fact, using all three is the way to really protect your system.”

Tokenization adds an extra layer of protection to your customer’s data. It’s similar to encryption, except it virtually can’t be cracked.

“There’s no mathematical correlation between that code and the original value, so there’s no way you can figure out that original card number from the token,” Godfrey says. He says this type of protection cannot protect you from customers using fake credit cards, but “it’s great when you have to hold on to that card number after the fact.”

Anti-encryption, aka point-to-point encryption, encrypts the card data as soon as the card is swiped.

“It’s tamper resistant,” Godfrey says, noting that it works best against RAM scrapers. “If somebody went in there and tried to mess with it, it would just wipe itself out. If you’ve got something hackers want, and that’s the credit card data, what encryption
does is it removes the value. So even if they do get in, there’s nothing of value to steal.”

Where is all this headed? While the Chip and Pin cards are coming our way next year, many experts predict that, ultimately, using our smart phones to pay for things will be most popular.“If you ask me, I think smart phones is where we’re going to go,” Godfrey says.

“The consumers are going to drive some of that. I think the younger generation especially wants that ability,” Seymour says.“When you look at the percentage of smart phones and how that’s increased over the past few years, my personal feeling is that yes, that’s where we’ll end up.”




Technology promotes healthier bottom line, healthier customers

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Tin Drum: The Value of the Personalized Ordering Experience

By Helen K. Kelley

Tin DrumIncreased revenue. Decreased costs. Decreased customer wait time. Increased customer satisfaction. These are the results achieved by Tin Drum Asia Cafe after implementing Usable Healths SmartMenu terminal. But there was one other benefit that Tin Drum owner Steven Chan found so intriguing that he agreed to pilot the technology in his six restaurant locations.

One of the most interesting aspects of SmartMenu is that it is health-based. It can help the customer make better food selections by suggesting side items and other add-ons that make up a healthy meal, explains Chan. I don’t consider myself that knowledgeable about making healthy choices. I won’t think about how many calories are in the handful of chips I just put in my mouth. The general public just doesn’t have this wisdom. They’d like to make their own choices, but they’re not knowledgeable enough, so SmartMenu gives them the tools to help balance their diet. 

It’s all about choice

SmartMenu is an interactive POS system that providers diners with a very personalized ordering experience. The self-service terminal allows customers to select their meals quickly and efficiently and, at the same time, it tracks and addresses their preferences, such as if the person is health-conscious or price-sensitive. When a diner swipes his or her card, SmartMenu recognizes the person and automatically suggests what he or she ordered on the previous visit. If the customer asks for recommendations, SmartMenu will make suggestions for selections, up-selling from the regular menu or the healthier menu based on those stored preferences.

Jiten Chhabra, founder and CEO of Usable Health, says that SmartMenu is a great help to not only health-conscious diners but also to those with specific health concerns such as high cholesterol and diabetes.

If a customer indicates that he or she has specific health needs, the system will address those needs, says Chhabra. SmartMenu incorporates a food swapper engine that will make recommendations for menu items and suggest combinations of items, such as have a small salad and a small sandwich, to the customer. Even if a restaurant doesn’t have many healthy choices available, SmartMenu can make selections based on portion sizes.

It’s a win-win situation operators make more money on margins by selling combinations of menu items that wouldn’t otherwise be found by the customer, and customers are able to satisfy their taste buds and their health needs at the same time.

Customers also have a choice between using the technology or old-fashioned counter service. SmartMenu is meant to work in tandem with restaurant employees, so if a customer feels more comfortable talking to a real person, they can bypass the terminal and place their order with a cashier.

Personalized ordering = a healthier bottom line

Point of sale systems are designed to lower operating costs, but SmartMenu takes that design a step further.

The traditional POS system was not designed with improving the diner experience in mind, explains Chhabra. SmartMenu makes the ordering process interactive so that the diner doesn’t feel ignored. It also makes the ordering process intelligent by taking food item margins into consideration before making suggestions to the diner.

According to Usable Healths data, when SmartMenu is implemented, on average, operators start instantly saving at least $500 a month due to decreased labor costs, and the average increase in check size is at least 15 percent.

Chan agrees, stating that SmartMenu has definitely decreased Tin Drum’s operating costs by cutting down on labor. And since customers enter their own orders, there is less chance for cashier error this improved accuracy makes for less waste.

SmartMenu also has increased revenues for Tin Drum. It raises the check average by making up-sell recommendations to customers on a consistent basis, Chain explains. It also cuts down on customer wait time, so the orders are coming into the kitchen faster.

Additionally, the system manages the redemption process, saving the operator valuable time.

We don’t have to accept coupons anymore. I don’t have to count them manually and track them myself, says Chan. The system does it for me.

SmartMenu as a marketing tool

SmartMenu logs a variety of data about customers including how long a person looks at a menu item and whether or not they order healthy options. This information comes in handy as a marketing tool for operators who want to target certain customers with specific offers.

The system lets operators configure deals and promotions themselves without paying an outside vendor, explains Chhabra. For example, if you see that your restaurant is empty at certain hours, you can notify your customers to come take advantage of a special during that particular time and increase your business.

Chan adds that SmartMenu has given him the flexibility to launch whatever kind of promotion or loyalty program he desires.

In the past, restaurants had to go to the expense of printing gift or loyalty cards and setting up a program. With the SmartMenu system, I log on to my account and set up special offers for my customers whenever I like. Then, all I have to do is post the offer on Tin Drum’s Facebook page to get the word out, he says. And all customers have to do to take advantage of the offer is log in when they come in to one of our restaurants.

Personal choice represents opportunity

Serving as a pilot chain for SmartMenu has been rewarding both for Tin Drum Asia Cafe and for Chan personally.

In a way, I feel like I’m sort of a partner to [Usable Health] in developing SmartMenu. I can offer them opinions and share real-time experiences, ideas and suggestions, Chan says. I think this is just the beginning of this kind of technology. The personal choice terminal presents a lot of opportunity for both restaurants and customers.

Tin Drum Asia Cafe has five metro Atlanta locations and one in Forsyth County and has begun franchising in the southeast. All locations will incorporate the SmartMenu terminals. For more information, visit

To learn more about Usable Health and SmartMenu technology and see customer and diner testimonials, visit


Today’s Technology Rules Restaurant Marketing

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

By Ellen Weaver Hartman, ARP, Fellow PRSA

It wasn’t so long ago that a restaurant’s success depended on good word of mouth and maybe – fingers crossed –a favorable review in the local newspaper.

Today, it’s all technology driven. Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, emails, blogging or apps, technology is the name of the game and restaurants may, in fact, be the industry segment that is on the cutting-edge of marketing via technology.

Almost $800 million was spent on mobile marketing last year, up more than 160 percent from 2009, according to the media research firm BIA/ Kelsey. More than 100 billion text messages are received or sent each year, and the use of mobile coupons should reach 300 million globally by 2014, according to Juniper Research.

It has not gone unnoticed by restaurant owners that more than 34 million Americas get their dining and restaurant information from a mobile device. Marketing gurus know it’s the wave of the future. Many restaurants, particularly chains or multi-location stores, such as Domino’s Pizza and Starbucks, have their own apps. The W Atlanta Downtown’s Bar has its own app but also is devoting more time to geo-centric apps such as Gowalia that allow for an experiential interaction. Other use third-party vendors such as and

Today, smart restaurant operators use these apps and other technology to send daily reports about specials, run loyalty contests, allow customers to order, pay by phone, figure out how many calories a dish has, make reservations, view menus, offer feedback and even show maps for directions. And it’s a two-way street; restaurateurs use technology to manage previous and future reservations made by customers.

“If you think about it, a personal device, whether it’s an iPhone, an Android or other smartphones, is the one form of communication that people cling to 24/7,” says Pablo Henderson – W Atlanta Downtown’s Bar Happenings manager.  “We’re communicating with our customers or potential customers in real time. In addition, our relationship with our customers is strengthened because we give them access to something that not everyone has. It’s like belonging to an exclusive club.”

“So many more customers are tech savvy,” says Sari Bernstein, marketing director for Here To Serve Restaurants in Atlanta. “They receive newsletters via email, look for special offers via phone and mail. The money we used to spend on print advertising is going towards other ways to advertise these days with a better ROI.”

Each of the Here To Serve Restaunts, including Coast, Strip, Noche, and Aja, has its own Facebook and Twitter page. “It’s a great way for them to stay in front of their followers/friends with daily specials and events going on in the restaurants constantly,” she says. “Twitter is fantastic to get a message out real quick. If we decide at the last minute to run an offer in the restaurant, we don’t worry about putting together all the artwork to relay the message. We can just easily tweet about it and watch how quickly that message can virally spread.”

Wow Bao, a restaurant concept from Chicago-based Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, offers a telling case study on how it connects with its customers in innovative ways. Wow Bao wanted to engage customers with a mobile offering while building brand awareness and loyalty (and increase revenues) through its social media efforts. To engage customers more fully, it partnered with Mocapay, a mobile consumer engagement platform, to offer its customers exclusive mobile offers and allow them to securely pay using their mobile phones.

Using Mocapay’s platform, Wow Bao started mobile marketing and issued mobile VIP comp cards to its customers. In addition Wow Bao sent out mobile reminders to customers who hadn’t redeemed their card or who still had a remaining balance.

In addition to the mobile comp card, Mocapay’s embedded mobile technology allows Wow Bao to create, monitor and measure campaigns in real-time. In return, it also provides valuable information including redemption rates and purchasing behavior that gives Wow Bao a better sense of its customer, allowing a more targeted and personal relationship with every interaction.

For Wow Bao, the use of integrated social media resulted in increased loyalty and revenue. Its VIP comp card has been extremely successful with a 24 percent redemption rate at the point-of-sale and a nearly $10.00 average ticket.

To promote their breakfast menu, Wow Bao ran a mobile promotion one day for three hours. Customers who were part of the mobile program were sent a mobile message to receive a free breakfast bao between 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. the next morning. The promotion saw an eight percent redemption rate, which is three to four times the average of direct mail coupon redemption, according to the Direct Marketing Association.

“We believe mobile is the next frontier for the restaurant industry and an amazing channel to directly connect with customers and build brand loyalty to increase store visits,” says Geoff Alexander, managing partner of Wow Bao. “We are able to take our mobile marketing strategy to the next level by incorporating secure, mobile payments while also reaching our customers in a personalized manner.”

“The restaurant business is the perfect industry to showcase the benefits of an end-to-end mobile marketing solution. People do not always have cash, but usually have their mobile handsets with them at all times,” says Doug Dwyre, president, Mocapay. “There is a shift in the marketplace towards the mobile channel as a viable way to establish customer loyalty and extend the value of a brand in real-time.”

Other restaurants are reaping the rewards with similar technology creativity.

Doc Chey’s Noodle House, which has three Atlanta locations, has active Facebook and Twitter pages, but it also uses technology to increase its operations and entice customers with a prize. Customers who show that they checked in for their reservation using Facebook or Foursquare get a raffle ticket to win an IPad2.

The marketing is both direct and subtle. By enticing customers with the chance of an iPad2, it is giving them an incentive to go to its Facebook page, where they can become more engaged. Checking in ahead of time, just like at an airport, allows diners to be seated promptly, which increases customer satisfaction. The iPad2, at this point, is almost beside the point.

Technology guru Jonathan Kaplan, who sold his company to Cisco Systems for more than $500 million, is starting a California-based restaurant chain called The Melt. Relying on location-based mobile technology, The Melt is using technology in all aspects of the business including ordering. When ordering, customers will receive a QR code that could be scanned at any restaurant, allowing the customers to pay through their phone, skip the line and get their food faster.

So where is technology going these days?

Henderson admits that restaurants are facing technology clutter. “Your message now needs to be a lot louder,” he says. “Being an early adopter of new technology was once enough to reach influencers, but now everybody is on Facebook, Youtube, using S.E.O., and the web has more clutter now. We are looking for new ways. Video, for instance, has become a big part of our story-telling process.”

“It’s really the beginning,” says Bernstein of Here to Serve. “People can use their phones for almost anything these days, and we are constantly looking at new technology to further our relationship with our customers and strengthen our brand.”

Still, Henderson yearns for the good old days. “Word-of-mouth marketing is still the best and oldest form of marketing and one that relies on simple principles such as quality, service and a great story,” he says. “Yes, automatic order takers may become a growing trend, but it won’t replace the role of a friendly cocktail waitress.”

Ellen Weaver Hartman is president and CEO of Hartman Public Relations, based in Atlanta. Hartman has more than 30 years of experience in building strategic communications campaigns for some of the world’s most well-known brands. In addition to consumer and business to business communications, she has expertise in corporate communications, social responsibility, media relations and crisis management. To contact Ellen Hartman, email


More Energy Saving Products

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

May/June 2009

When Chris and Michele Sedgwick reconcepted their Roswell restaurant to Bistro VG, the kitchen was also updated with several new pieces of commercial cooking equipment to save time and energy.  One piece added was the electric RATIONALSelfCooking Center. Owner Chris says, “The combi oven gives my chef additional creativity with our new menu while producing a high-quality, consistent product for our customers.” The oven is programmable, allowing Bistro VG’s chef to input his own recipes, which any chef can prepare with the simple push of a few buttons.


As Director of Construction and Development for Ted’s Montana Grill, Ed Bazor has a lot on his plate. But nothing is more important to him than his role as “Head of the Green Team.” Ted’s restaurants take their environmental stance very seriously, and it shows in their kitchen equipment. In their last two locations (Cumming, GA, and Bozeman, MT) they installed two gas-fired, tankless water heaters manufactured by Noritz. These two heaters are used in tandem to jointly ensure there is hot water on demand for frontand back-of-the-house operations. “We have not had them in operation a full year, so I can’t tell you the overall water or energy saving yet,” Bazor says, “but I will tell you that I have already seen huge benefit in cover2-2.jpgthe ability to eliminate 25 to 30 square feet of restaurant space because they hang on the wall. That is an upfront cost savings of $1,500 per year in real estate.” He also noticed his maintenance cost has been minimized because water flowed through the tanks instead of sitting in them. He states, “Neither restaurant has had one service call in the past 10 months. Even if we experience a moderate savings of energy, this equipment has saved me in real estate, installation expense, maintenance and space. I call that a significant savings overall.”

The world’s largest fast-food restaurant made a major decision to switch to electric fryers, and the results have been dramatic. The Varsity has been able to turn out their renowned food faster than ever, and its inside temperature has dropped significantly, especially in the kitchen area. “It has been fantastic,” says Gordon Muir, Varsity President and grandson of founder Frank Gordy Sr. “Our building is not just cooler, it’s more comfortable. I walked out into the lobby on a recent day when it was 100º outside, but it was cool at The Varsity. That’s a first.” Their kitchen temperature now stays below 80º. The Varsity’s 18 fryers work feverishly every day, cooking up the French fries and onion rings that helped make it famous. Not only are the electric fryers cooler, but they are also more efficient, easier to maintain and much easier to clean, according to Muir.


Middleby Marshall’s WOW! Gas Conveyor Oven was named the 2009 Product of the Year bycover2-4.jpg the Gas Foodservice Equipment Network at the NAFEM show. This award is presented annually to a manufacturer that brings to market a natural gas appliance that highlights outstanding innovation and technology in foodservice equipment. The oven has an “energy eye” that starts the belt only when it senses product. When the belt does not have product, the energy eye puts the oven into a sleep mode to save energy. The oven cooks most products in three to four minutes. Georgia-based Stevi B’s Pizza restaurant’s Senior Vice President of Corporate Operations Seth Salzman says, “This oven runs 20% faster. For us, we can replenish our buffet faster, providing less waste because of our quicker reaction time.”

cover2-5.thumbnail.jpgNiagara Conservation’s commercial, high-efficiency prerinse spray nozzle is certified by the Food Services Technology Center and endorsed by the Green Restaurant Association to reduce water usage by 80%. It has an insulated handle and is interchangeable with all brands.

Power Spray’s Savings Charts


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