Cybersecurity is in the news constantly. From major banking data breaches to ransomware attacks to shady data-sharing business deals, it’s more important than ever that your business stay on top of developments in the world of digital security.

This is particularly true for restaurants! As businesses that thrive through having solid reputations and lasting relationships with their communities, one data slip-up for a restaurant could be a fatal mistake.

Your restaurant’s team is already expert at managing large crowds in your dining room and bar, but what about all the sensitive data that these large crowds generate?

Restaurants are increasingly targeted by identity thieves and hackers because POS systems and security practices are as diverse as the restaurant industry itself. There are huge disparities between restaurants with airtight security practices and those with lax or non-existent protocols.

We’ve gathered 5 simple ways to boost your restaurant’s cybersecurity practices today:

  1. Identify any vulnerable points in your operations.
  2. Know the different types of transaction fraud.
  3. Take some important first security precautions.
  4. Use only modern, secure payment technology.
  5. Learn from other sectors whenever possible.

Even if you’re unfamiliar with some cybersecurity basics, you can still take immediate steps to improve the security of your restaurant’s payment processing and other digital interactions with your customers’ valuable data. Let’s get started!


1. Identify any vulnerable points in your operations.

Any point in a transaction process where your team or software comes in contact with the personal or payment information of your customers is a vulnerability and a target for data theft.

Focusing your cybersecurity efforts at these critical points is not only the most effective way to head off any security threats, it’s also a best practice more generally. Hackers can get creative in finding roundabout ways to access your system where they think you might not have prioritized security, so think of the bigger picture, not just your payment processing system.

Vulnerable points in your restaurant’s data operations likely include:

  • Your payment aggregator service or merchant account for payment processing
  • Your physical POS system and its software
  • All of your transaction records and your means of accessing them
  • Your reservation system and attached customer data
  • Your restaurant’s mobile app or loyalty/rewards program

As restaurants and other businesses diversify the ways in which they engage with their customers digitally, it’s important that you always remember security.

For instance, more and more restaurants and restaurant groups use loyalty apps to engage and reward their customers. If you contracted an app-building service to create yours, scrutinize its security features, especially if it has the ability to collect and process payments!

The bottom line: As businesses expand their digital operations and online interactions with customers, more vulnerable points are open to attack! Identify any weak spots you might have.

2. Know the different types of transaction fraud.

As we’ve all seen in recent years, the scope of commercial data fraud can be massive. Raising awareness and understanding common cybersecurity threats is a great first step to building more secure defenses for your restaurant.

There are 3 common types of transaction fraud that affect businesses of all types:

  • Identity theft. As a catch-all category for the theft of personal and financial data in order to initiate fraudulent transactions, identity theft is the most common cybersecurity threat faced by all businesses that use digital tools to process payments.
  • Credit card tumbling. This process involves the random generation of credit card numbers tested hundreds of times by bots using your online payment forms. Credit card tumbling is analogous to the threats facing traditional login systems on websites, too. If your restaurant processes payments or sells goods online, you might be at risk.
  • Refund fraud. An extremely common threat to retailers of all varieties, this fraud involves thieves making purchases using stolen credit card information, then canceling payment and directly collecting a refund. Businesses then get hit with exorbitant transaction fees.

Familiarize your team with the different types of cybersecurity threats that exist. Incorporate security training into various elements of your onboarding process, as you train new team members on your POS software, for instance.

Everyone can contribute to your restaurant’s security practices even by simply taking part in a culture of awareness and responsibility.

The bottom line: Study up on basic concepts of digital security and transaction fraud. No modern business should wait to learn the hard way that their customers have been at risk.

3. Take some important first security precautions.

Always consider the simplest first steps you can take to boost the cybersecurity of your business, its operations, and its websites. Oftentimes these simple precautions can be extremely effective, since many other businesses fail to even make the easiest of first steps.

There are a few simple ways you can improve the security of your restaurant’s digital operations and payment processing:

  • Train your team. As mentioned in the previous section, raising awareness of cyber-threats more generally can go a long way to fostering better security habits across all members of your staff that handle sensitive customer data.
  • Check for PCI compliance. PCI, or Payment Card Industry, standards represent a relatively high baseline of security. Any digital tools you use to accept payments or process financial data should feature PCI compliance.
  • Secure your website from the outside in. Consider the point of view of a user or hacker attempting to gain access to your site. If your site features eCommerce, reservation, or payment tools, create multiple extra layers of security to protect customer data.

Your site’s login features are a great example of an easy area to boost security. Traditional username and password logins are increasingly risky, since discrete credentials are more easily hackable than newer login systems like Swoop, which generates randomized keys and validates a user’s identity via email.

Instead of using a password, Swoop processes several security algorithms to authenticate a user’s IP address and identity in just 2 clicks.

Check out Swoop’s top WordPress security plugins for more easy first steps you can take to secure your website. If your restaurant allows customers to purchase anything through your site, you owe it to them to explore all your security options.

The bottom line: Research all your digital tools to ensure they’re secure, then find some easy ways you can boost the security of your site. Your login process is a great starting point.

4. Use only modern, secure payment technology.

Next, think about the ways you process payments in your restaurant. This includes any hardware and software used to collect payments from customers.

As a management tool, digital database, payment processor, and a physical access point, your POS system is central when it comes to collecting in-person payments.

Restaurant POS systems should offer a few standard, up-to-date security features, including:

  • EMV chip readers, a more secure alternative to traditional swiping methods.
  • Apple-based processing, which continually proves to be a much more secure operating system for POS software.
  • Data encryption and tokenization features that take the guesswork out of adding extra layers of security between hackers and your customers’ data.

Plus, your POS system must be flexible and intuitive enough to still let you split checks and customize payment methods while fully retaining these automatic security features.

iPad POS software from Lavu is a leader in restaurant management and payment processing tools. Explore their features for an idea of the quality and range of features your restaurant should expect from any digital tool in this day and age.

The bottom line: Newer technology is almost always more secure. If you use an outdated POS system in your system, you might be putting your business and your customer’s data in danger.

5. Learn from other sectors whenever possible.

Developments in other industries and sectors that process digital payments can be an excellent guide. Data thieves never rest, so keep your restaurant’s digital team on its toes.

Nonprofit organizations are a great example of an area where you should keep an eye on security developments. That’s because the payment processing needs of nonprofits are particularly unique. Nonprofits need payment tools that:

  • Are extremely secure to assure donors and responsibly steward their gifts.
  • Have minimal or flexible processing fees to maximize donation revenue.
  • Feature intuitive data reporting tools to save donation and contact information.
  • Include additional fundraising and software integrations to save time and money.

For more context on the kinds of donation tools that meet the needs of nonprofit organizations, check out this guide from Double the Donation.  

Payment processing systems and their security features make up a very diverse landscape. Developments in cybersecurity might be occurring in a completely different sector, where your restaurant would never think to look. Staying on top of security news is a great practice to maintain.

The bottom line: Stay aware of developments in the cybersecurity field. Any industry or sector might offer the next big trend or show you what tools to avoid completely!

As businesses that need to collect huge amounts of sensitive payment data (and sometimes very quickly), cybersecurity should be a priority for your restaurant’s team!

Following these 5 simple first steps for boosting the security of your restaurant’s operations, POS system, and website can go a long way to reducing the chances that you’ll fall victim to the next big hacking or ransomware attack!