The Warning Signs It’s Time for an IT Upgrade

Jennifer Powell

CMO of Installation & Service Technologies (IST)

Warning signs can be as clear as rain water dripping from a ceiling or the check engine light on a car’s dashboard. But let’s say the system isn’t a roof or a car, but a business that depends on its technological network. What are the warning signs an IT system is in desperate need of an update? Is it a screen glitch or a pause in activity?

At Skinny IT, when identifying a client’s technology needs we begin with assessing where the system is failing and notify the owner of red flags that need an update so the business can perform at its best.

As these warning signs can be quite common to the eye of a service provider, it’s not as easy to spot for others. But with the knowledge outlined in the quick tips below, a business owner can begin to identify red flags and take action.

Warning sign #1 – The IT system isn’t helping overall business goals

If your IT system is functioning like a one-off answer rather than a holistic solution, this a major warning sign to upgrade to an enterprise-level network.

Businesses often invest in single services to fix short-term needs. For example, a restaurant could incorporate a new online reservation system that is a simple-to-use website where customers enter dates and times to reserve seating at their favorite Friday night spot. While this may seem like a solution, the service doesn’t fully contribute to the overall customer experience.

For true customer-centric service, the restaurant should upgrade to an enterprise-level solution. There are a few different services to do so, but reservation systems can transform into complete customer journeys. The updated system will not only make the reservation, but also text the customer when the table is ready, and after the meal, check in with the customer allowing them to rate their experience. The long-term goal is to build relationships with customers and to better business, and the IT systems should reflect this same agenda.

Warning sign #2 – The IT isn’t up to the challenge

If your IT system is acting as a band aid rather than proactive medicine, the network is bound for a costly repair.

When stadiums host football games for more than 80,000 fans, the Wi-Fi network handles a great amount of traffic, often resulting in a ‘can’t connect to network’ pop-up message for mobile users. This is because the stadium installed a network that is not capable of handling a large scale. A network that is optimized for stadiums has sufficient hardware touchpoints throughout the stadium and a sophisticated software design, both partnering for a quality, high-speed connectivity.

IT needs to be flexible to handle a business’s reality of complex problems that require smart solutions. Using short-sighted services that end up resembling band aids when circumstances are in need of a larger remedy is a significant warning sign to upgrade the system.

A Tip to Management

At the end of the day, the number one warning sign to look out for isn’t necessarily within the technology itself. Any warning sign will become a real-time issue if those who recognize them don’t take the problem seriously. If there was an oil light notification on the dashboard, the car owner would make an appointment with their mechanic. When you find your business’ technology isn’t operating at an enterprise level and isn’t up to the challenge, then contact your IT vendor to start implementing change.

Jennifer Powell

CMO of Installation & Service Technologies (IST)

As much as we love fries with that shake, nothing compares to an efficient restaurant with interactive customer service and perfect orders every time. The challenge is we live in a world that expects quick service no matter how busy the restaurant gets and our waiters to have our undivided attention at a moment’s notice. While these aren’t new challenges to the restaurant industry, they have contributed to driving technology adoption to overcome them.

Based on our observations of evolving trends and hearing about what irks our clients, we have outlined the benefits technology can have on restaurants, both fine dining and casual options.

Fine Dining Solutions

Many fine dining establishments offer specialty menus, like drinks, desserts or wine pairings, to their patrons. By incorporating tabletop tablets to host these menus, restaurants can provide relevant product information and peer reviews (like Wine Spectator), as well as update menu items in real time. Providing customers with more information about each item can help them make a decision, as opposed to trying to decide from a simple list.

Working in a fine dining restaurant also comes with certain expectations for servers, such as remembering regular customers’ drink preferences. Equipping servers with handheld devices can drastically increase the customer service. For example, a cloud database could host customer profiles that store past orders, allergies, food preferences, previous drink selections and any other notes.

Additionally, these devices allow waiters to receive real-time updates on food specials and products based on inventory availability. This way no server has to have the awkward “We ran out of that item” talk when they return from the kitchen. Finally, handhelds allow for direct communication between the wait staff and kitchen for specialty orders or last minute changes.

Everyday Casual Fixes

Tablets can also be extremely useful in casual dining settings as they allow servers on the floor to cover more tables. Instead of the server running back and forth, the tablets do the talking virtually to the kitchen. By utilizing technology, servers can instantly send an order to the kitchen with a few taps while at the table and spend more time interacting with the customers as opposed to running back and forth to put orders in. This leads to better overall service as well as enhanced customer experience for the restaurant and its patrons.

With how technology-dependent our society has become, integrating a familiar setting to most, like point and click technology through tablets, will drastically simplify the learning process. In the case of new hire training, tablets and their easy-to-use interface will decrease training time while simultaneously enhancing training quality, creating a more efficient team.

Additionally, by having a bird’s eye view via a digital system, servers can signal busboys virtually and hostesses can provide more accurate seating times and make notes to the staff about incoming large parties. By seeing accurate data on table turnover rates, wait times, server mistakes and kitchen deliveries, restaurant owners can understand what systems are working well and which need some improvements.

A digital tablet system can also integrate with printers so those customers that insist on having a paper receipt can get it immediately while they are bagging up their leftovers. Mobile payment applications can also be installed on the handhelds so the server can run the credit card while chatting with the customers right at the table. Really, the possibilities are endless here.

Because technology is constantly evolving, restaurants that aim to stay competitive in their industry should adapt to meet the expectations of their digital-savvy and fast-moving customers. If you are interested in us conducting a walk-through of your restaurant to see how we think you can implement some technologies to improve your bottom line, contact us today.

Jennifer Powell

CMO of Installation & Service Technologies (IST)

Ever heard the saying the more you know, the better you do? Companies can never have too much knowledge, too much background or too much research when planning how best to accomplish goals and increase profit.

With this mindset, we’re lucky to live in a time of big data. Large amounts of knowledge are at our disposal to help corporate America learn more about its consumers. And speaking as an IT service provider, the data is literally at our finger tips.

For the food service industry, we have seen IT and big data play a pivotal role in helping restaurants know their customers on a deeper level, and as a direct result, opening new revenue streams for increasing sales and food traffic. Through the IT systems restaurants install, such as in-store Wi-Fi, large amounts of data can be gathered about customers’ habits and preferences. Restaurants’ IT and marketing teams can then read this data, notice its trends and make an action plan to increase sales.

Any time a restaurant offers an online resource for customers, like Wi-Fi, rewards programs or mobile applications, customers are creating a digital footprint of their preferences, habits and interests. Restaurants can then use analytical programs built into these offerings to access data and define customer groups and personas. The more familiar the restaurant becomes with its customers, the better it can target them to increase sales.

In addition, exploring customers’ habits and preferences allows restaurants to have a predictive analysis advantage. If you can predict the likely actions of customers, you can build relationships with them on a new, personalized level. As a restaurant leverages predictive data to tailor its services, advertisements and other offerings to fit customers’ needs, customers notice their journey with stores and their relationships with the brand begin to develop more trust. Big data is essentially the best loyalty program a restaurant has to offer, as it creates a significant profit-making advantage.

For example, an analytics tool can create targeted in-store messaging through the restaurant’s Wi-Fi services. When guests log on to the restaurant’s free Wi-Fi, they accept the terms of use and are sent to a landing page of customized content, such as new menu items or special events. Big data can allow restaurants to infer which digital platform customers prefer to interact with the brand and which special offerings are out-performing others. With this targeted approach, restaurants would increase visibility of the promotion, and therefore, increase the sales that come as a result.

Beyond promotional announcements, restaurants can use big data for:

  • Inventory Management – By correlating buying trends and demographic data, restaurant owners can better predict what menu items will sell and be able to stock inventory accordingly.
  • Staff Scheduling – Different restaurant locations have peak hours at different times. By analyzing sales data, demographic data, and regional trends you can better predict when additional staff will be needed.
  • New Location Planning – Using demographic data gathered through loyalty programs, social media and other survey methods, a restaurant can know where to place new locations or franchises.
  • Feasibility Planning – By better understanding the purchasing patterns of a guest, a restaurant is better able to determine their needs. Given this, a restaurant can determine the feasibility of new endeavors, such as new dishes, menu category, delivery programs or the need for a brand refresh.

If you want to talk about how we can help your restaurant utilize analytics to increase sales, give us a call today.

Jennifer Powell

CMO of Installation & Service Technologies (IST)

Today’s technology-driven society is full of consumers with the ability to look up any information they desire at the drop of a hat – even our toddlers have tablets. The reality is, consumers want to have access to our phones anytime, anywhere. Because of this, many retail and restaurant owners choose to offer customers free in-store Wi-Fi.

Offering Wi-Fi can serve as a convenient way to connect with your audience, improve customer service and enhance the overall experience. However, free connectivity comes with a risk. To protect the business and its customers, retail and restaurant owners must prevent their networks from becoming a gateway for cyberattacks, where customers’ personal information can be stolen.

A data security breach can wreak havoc on brand reputation and negatively impact customer loyalty. Taking a few simple steps to protect the network can save you from a crisis down the road. For example, business owners should change the generic router admin’s controller password when installing the Wi-Fi to maintain a secure network. They also need to increase their network firewall security. Your IT provider is the expert here when it comes to designing and securing business networks. Utilize them to ensure the safety of your customers and company reputation.

Once the network is secure, offering online connectivity to consumers can greatly benefit a retail store or restaurant. Here are three benefits to consider when deciding to offer Wi-Fi to your customers:

  1. Enhanced Customer Experience – Business owners who choose to offer in-store Wi-Fi will quickly reap the benefits of their decision. According to Small Biz Trends, 62 percent of businesses pointed out that customers spend more time in store when free connectivity is offered and more than 50 percent attest that customers spend more money if connected to Wi-Fi. Additionally, 79 percent of restaurant diners agree that restaurant technology improves their overall guest experience, which includes Wi-Fi. Retail and restaurant owners who offer free Wi-Fi access will find that happy customers lead to the growth of their business.
  1. Build a Positive Brand Reputation – Consumers are always on the lookout for free Wi-Fi spots. Because we live in the world of smart devices, retail and restaurant owners must recognize the significance Wi-Fi access can have on their brand reputation. In fact, according to a Hughes Europe report, 46 percent of surveyed consumers stated that if faced with a store that offers free Wi-Fi and one that wasn’t, they would choose the store with free Wi-Fi. Consumers are expecting this offering and, therefore, installing Wi-Fi can build customer satisfaction and improve their experience.
  1. Help Your Business Grow – Offering free Wi-Fi doesn’t just benefit the customer. As a business owner, you can decide what customers see when they log onto your Wi-Fi. Through this capability, you have the option to use it as a marketing tool and set the company website as the home page, advertise upcoming announcements and specials, or have customers sign up for e-newsletters. Store owners can also use detailed analytics gathered from their Wi-Fi network to create targeted advertisements specifically tailored to customers’ preferences. Additionally, Wi-Fi can act as a measuring tool for monitoring network traffic and how much time they are spending in your store.

In-store Wi-Fi has become a consumer expectation and businesses that want to stay competitive within their industry should strongly consider adopting the connectivity trend. Take it from us, when that tablet-loving toddler is throwing a tantrum, you’ll be thankful they have free Wi-Fi for a quick distraction. If you want to talk about how we can help your business connect to customers safely or gain a significant marketing advantage, give us a call today.

Jennifer Powell

CMO of Installation & Service Technologies (IST)

One of the most apparent and concerning trends we noticed in 2016 was the rise of data breaches and the stealing of millions of Americans’ personal information. At Skinny IT, we believe every business, regardless of its size, should have an understanding of what cybersecurity is and how it plays a role in its success.

This blog post will serve as an introduction to cybersecurity for those who have little prior knowledge of the industry. It will be the first in a series of blogs focusing on cybersecurity as it relates to business owners and the capabilities Skinny IT has to help prevent a cyberattack.

According to a Gallup poll, 70 percent of the U.S. population is concerned about the possibility of their information being stolen. Whether it be cases of identity theft or credit card fraud, it has never been more important for business owners to ensure they are taking necessary precautions to protect their customers.

When a customer uses a Point of Sale system (PoS) to make a purchase at a retail store, pay for food at a restaurant or buy an item online, they are trusting businesses to ensure their information cannot be stolen. Data breaches cause companies to lose revenue, status within the industry and customer loyalty. Reputation is everything when running a business, and getting hacked is a surefire way to lose customers.

Business owners must understand the importance of cybersecurity in order to ensure the success and longevity of their company. Here is a list of 5 proactive steps companies should take to protect their business and customers:

  1. PoS Systems – Hackers often look for the biggest outcome that requires the least amount of work, which is why data breaches of PoS systems are among the highest ranked. These cybercriminals are able to steal large amounts of personal information from a single system. To protect the safety of customers, make sure your business is following government-regulated PCI compliance guidelines and always use the most updated PoS system. Currently, business owners should be using EMV chip card readers, which use computer chips to authenticate and secure debit and credit card transactions. Additionally, it is best practice for business owners to utilize a third-party vendor who is an expert in the IT industry to install and host the PoS system on an outside network.
  1. Employee Training – In order to ensure the security of your business, it is essential for all employees to go through cybersecurity training. This training will allow employees to watch for signs of a data breach and implement preventative measures to ensure the company’s success. Employee training is important because it acts as one more wall cybercriminals must navigate to access private information.
  1. Wi-Fi Access – Several retail stores and restaurants choose to offer customers free Wi-Fi access. These are large public networks that are accessible to anyone, and by anyone, we mean hackers. If your business chooses to offer free Wi-Fi, ensure it is a protected network. For Wi-Fi networks and all additional technology components that require password protection, business owners must change the standard default password that comes with the system in order to prevent an easy cyberattack.
  1. E-Commerce – If your business has an e-commerce site, offer customers a secure checkout process. Send verification emails once they have made a purchase, and remind them to report any emails that look suspicious or fake. For example, Amazon recently had an issue with a hacker sending customers fake emails requesting them to re-input their shipping information because it had been lost. The customers who responded to this email had their information stolen.
  1. Have a Crisis Communications Plan in Place – The unfortunate reality is that you can do everything in your power to prevent a data breach, and still fall victim. Cybersecurity attacks lead to loss of reputation, customer loyalty, and additional fines that can cause damage that is unrecoverable. Because of this, it is always best practice to have a crisis communications plan in place if a data breach occurs to help prevent your company from going out of business.
  • First, have a prepared statement drafted informing your customers of a data breach. Be transparent and provide all details legally allowed regarding the breach so your customers know you are doing everything in your power to fix the issue.
  • To ensure false information is not leaked, designate one member of the leadership team to address the crisis situation. No one else from your company should address the media. This way, you and the public can know that all information is coming from a reliable source.
  • Keep customers updated and informed on the status of the recovery process so they are aware of the action items you are taking to solve the problem as time progresses.
  • Lastly, once the crisis is under control and all issues have been addressed, notify all customers, apologize and explain the steps put in place to ensure it will not happen again.

Hackers often take seconds to break into your system, and reversing the consequences of that data breach can take years. Some companies never fully recover once they have been hacked. By taking action and securing your IT ahead of time, you are not only protecting your business, but the people who make it function: your customers.

As an IT company with years of experience within the industry, we have seen businesses that did not utilize a professional IT service fall victim to cybersecurity attacks. We want to ensure that does not happen to you. Skinny IT can help protect your business from cyberattacks and data breaches quickly and efficiently by ensuring your technology is installed and protected correctly. If you want to chat about cybersecurity and the security of your IT system, give us a call.

Jennifer Powell

CMO of Installation & Service Technologies (IST)

When opening a new restaurant, the start-up checklist can seem endless. From hiring and training staff members, to designing the space and ensuring all technology components work seamlessly, it can be easy to miss something.

In order to be successful today, every restaurant must leverage technology – there’s just no getting around it. From point of sale (POS) systems to digital menus, you must hire a trusted IT provider that can ensure all technology aspects are streamlined.

According to the National Restaurant Association, the restaurant industry makes an average of $782.7 billion in sales each year. Additionally, there are more than 1 million restaurant locations in the U.S., and a projected 1.7 million jobs will be created with the opening of new restaurants by the year 2026.

We can’t ignore the exponential growth the restaurant industry is experiencing, and it doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon. Therefore, restaurant owners must understand how leveraging technology can play a vital role in staying ahead of the competition and remaining successful. Consider our recommendations below when opening a new location.

  1. Plan Ahead
    During the design and layout phase, brainstorm all technology components desired to ensure each is included in the construction. As an example, here’s what we typically offer our clients:
  • Cabling
  • Computer and network needs
  • Database collection from customers
  • Digital menus
  • Digital promotional screens
  • Intercom systems
  • Linked network of cash registers
  • Music systems
  • Physical and cyber security system
  • POS systems
  • Receipt printers
  • Surveillance cameras
  • Wi-Fi access
  1. Find a Partner
    Take that list and talk with vendors to ensure they can meet all, or the majority of, your needs. Finding a provider who can streamline the process by providing all technology components is crucial. Speaking for Skinny IT, we act as a team member working with our clients to ensure mutual success. We strive to be a true partner to their business that will adapt as the restaurant grows and evolves over the years.
  1. Conduct Ongoing Maintenance
    If an IT issue arises, a trusted partner should be accessible at a moment’s notice to ensure the business does not suffer and lose money in the interim. In addition, your provider should check in every few months to confirm all technology components are up-to-date and working properly. This will allow the provider to fix any issues ahead of time before a problem arises that could negatively affect the restaurant.

At Skinny IT, we work closely with SICOM Systems, Inc., a digital signage software company that specializes in the quick-service restaurant industry and works for clients like Popeye’s, Hardees, Carl’s Jr. and Burger King. Before utilizing Skinny IT, SICOM used several different providers to deliver various technology solutions. Since we stepped in, we have streamlined the process and provided all IT solutions and services for its clients. Through our partnership with SICOM, we have installed digital menus and provided additional IT services to more than 150 fast service restaurants throughout the U.S. and Canada.

We specialize in transforming restaurants with IT solutions tailored to the client’s specific needs. Whatever they need, we’ll make it happen – and for an affordable price. Our goal is to ensure our customers are profitable, successful and continue to grow their restaurant businesses.

If you are opening a new restaurant and looking for an IT provider, we’d love to chat.

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