How Free Wi-Fi Can Shut Down A RestaurantWritten by Todd L. Michaud
Franchisee Columnist Todd Michaud has spent the last 16 years trying to fight IT issues, with the last six years focused on franchisee IT issues. He is currently responsible for IT at Focus Brands (Cinnabon, Carvel, Schlotzsky’s and Moe’s Southwestern Grill).
Someone with a Secret Service badge has just informed you that she believes credit card numbers are being stolen from your restaurant by a European organized crime ring. That person says it is because you plugged your wireless access point into the wrong port. Angry people are standing across the counter; their bank accounts have been drained, and they are accusing you of stealing their rent money. Visa is saying that you have to pay $12,000 for a forensic audit of your POS. All because you wanted to offer free wireless.
In the wake of Sam’s Club this week adding its name to major chains now supporting free customer Wi-Fi, this is no longer a cutting edge experimental endeavor. Let’s back up about 18 months, when you made the decision to install a wireless hotspot for guests. At the time, you were feeling pressure to keep up with the other area restaurants that were stealing away your customers because they had wireless and you didn’t. After talking to your nephew Steve, who studied computers in school, you decided to implement wireless in your store and it was pretty easy. You went to Best Buy, picked up a wireless access point for less than $100, came back, plugged it into the DSL modem and followed the directions. You had it up and running in under an hour. Remember how you were so proud of yourself?
Then, after a few months, the service stopped working. Guests started to complain. When you went into the back to investigate, you found your office shelf a mess. Wires were everywhere, and you saw a bunch of unidentified electronics. You think one piece might be for the old cable modem. And at least one runs the music, while another is for the TV and a third goes with the video cameras. You reach behind what you believe is the DSL router and start rebooting things. It doesn’t fix the problem, so you start looking at cables to make sure they are plugged in all the way. Maybe one was loose. Where did that one go again?
After half an hour, you give up. Steve isn’t around, so you grab one of the kids who works the register and is always talking to his friends on Facebook on his phone (instead of working) and ask him to fix it. He messes around for a while and eventually connectivity is restored. Phew. Thankfully. But the kid doesn’t say what did the trick, and you don’t ask. You’re just happy to be back up and running again. Little did you know that this moment in time may cause you to lose your life savings and shut down your restaurant.
Why? Because what that helpful crew member didn’t say was that he got the wireless to work by:
- Unplugging the firewall.
- Changing the firewall rules.
- Moving it to the POS network.
- Or who knows what else.
Stuff like this happens every single day. Restaurant operators feel the pressure to offer wireless service because it has become an industry standard. But they often have little idea of how to either properly set it up or maintain it.