Pizzeria owners can take steps to prevent damage when power, technology or the supply chain falters
From large-scale weather disasters to local outages, there are many events that can cause a pizzeria to pause operations. Businesses are technology dependent these days, and an outage in power or internet service can bring service to a halt. Even routine stoppages, such as when a distributor runs out of an ingredient, can force restaurant operators to struggle to serve current and future customers.
It pays to be prepared for various scenarios. While hurricanes, wildfires, and other disasters have captured much media attention lately, more mundane outages can cause harm too, so it helps to have a plan in place for what to do when the lights or internet go out or
supply chains are constrained.
When the Wi-Fi is Down
“The internet going out is probably most common,” says Joe Costanzo Sr., owner of point of sale company Revolt Tek. “If the power goes out, it’s rare you can do business anyway.”
Revolt Tek offers retail and restaurant customers several options for handling an internet outage. One is to have backup cellular service, in which the device recognizes when internet service goes out and switches to the business’s cellular carrier. “That happens in as little as 15 seconds,” Costanzo says. “It’s rare they notice. They may lose Office or music, but it keeps the point of sale on.”
Having a system that switches to cellular is just one part of a failover business continuity plan. Check with your internet service provider to make sure you have an updated modem and router, and find out whether the system automatically switches to cellular backup.
In the case of a power outage, battery backup can keep the routers and at least one point of sale station working. “That way you may not be able to continue cooking but you can take payments and close people out,” Costanzo says.
Taking payments without tech
Costanzo adds that payment processors also provide the option of accepting payments with an app or a reader on a cell phone. The system might not link up with the POS system while the power is out, so the owner or manager would have to input the information later. “It could turn into a hassle, but you get your payments,” Costanzo says.
There have been some widely publicized payment system outages lately, due to a lack of cybersecurity or other issues. In these scenarios, restaurant owners might ask customers to pay cash, but many consumers don’t carry cash and prefer to pay with debit or with credit cards, often from their phones. Customers likely won’t agree to a request to write down their card numbers so the pizzeria can input the info later. Other options such as Venmo and Zelle could be a last resort. These are designed for peer payments, and customers might balk at paying the person behind the counter instead of swiping the restaurant’s reader.
“A good POS system should be able to take credit cards when the internet goes down, for a certain amount of time,” says David Maloni, principal at Datum FS, a foodservice supply chain consultancy.
Flour waits on the container ship
The POS system also plays a role in routine operations, such as informing the pizzeria owner the amount of ingredients purchased and the vendors that supply each. That’s important for another type of outage, supply chain constraints. If one distributor is suddenly unable to supply an ingredient, the pizzeria owner should have a backup already set up. That could be another distributor, and the operator can use free apps that keep track of the various suppliers and prices.
“You need to ensure your ordering and your check-in system are efficient,” Maloni says. “Make sure the right people are checking in product and you have a record.”
Always have a backup provider of ingredients, even if that means having a membership at a warehouse club store. Instead of panicking when a distributor runs low on cheese or flour, the pizzeria owner can simply step into a club store and buy most ingredients. “You have to diversify your suppliers,” Maroni says. “You always have to have a backup source that you can work with.”
What happens when lights out at the restaurant
In the case of a power outage, the pizzeria owner has much more to worry about than how to accept a credit card payment. According to the National Restaurant Association’s ServSafe food safety program, if a restaurant suffers heavy damage from a hurricane, fire, tornado or flood, it’s likely the operation would have to throw away all its food inventory.
Some health departments’ websites offer advice on what to do in the case of a power outage. Among the tips: consider buying a generator before the power goes out, develop an emergency menu that requires no cooking, and research the availability of refrigerated food trucks. During a power outage, stop cooking, because the exhaust hood and ventilation systems stopped working, as did the dishwasher and any sanitizing capabilities. Keep refrigerator doors closed to keep the cold in, and when power is restored, check the internal temperatures of foods.
What is covered by insurance?
Insurance might not cover as much as business owners might hope. “Coverage for a power outage depends on the cause of the outage,” Larry Warshaw, risk management director for Intrepid Direct Insurance, said by e-mail. “It may be covered if caused by a ‘covered cause of loss,’ which is typically a ‘direct physical loss.’ Power outages that originate away from the insured premises are typically not covered; however, direct physical loss caused by any resulting power surge may be covered.”
Most pizzeria owners have standard Business Owner’s Policies or Commercial Property coverage. Check with your insurer to see what is covered, and how much of a deductible you would have to pay in the event of a loss. “There’s typically a deductible expressed in terms of a waiting period,” Warshaw says. “However, expenses incurred that mitigate the loss (shorten the restoration period), even during the waiting period, may be covered as an extra expense.”
Know ahead of time where to get updates about power and internet outages. Utilities and other service providers often post information about outages on their websites or their apps. Whether it’s a widespread disaster or a momentary loss of service, be sure to have protocols in place for managers and employees.
NORA CALEY is a freelance writer who covers small business, finance and lifestyle topics.