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Secure Your Restaurant: 8 Simple Ways to Meet PCI Compliance Standards

Targeted steps must be taken to ensure your restaurant is PCI compliant to prevent your customers' personal information from being compromised. This includes training your staff to handle guests' credit cards and personal information properly and carefully, ensuring your Wi-Fi connection is safe and secure with an up to date restaurant technology.

What is PCI compliance?

PCI compliance is a set of standards for all merchants who process credit or debit card transactions, regardless of size. Compliance must be demonstrated throughout a company's entire IT infrastructure, which includes any device that can store, transmit, or track customer card data.

Comply with PCI Security Standards the Easy Way

  1. Build and maintain a secure network connection and infrastructure

  2. Protect cardholder’s data

  3. Maintain a vulnerability management program

  4. Implement strong access control measures

  5. Regularly monitor and test networks

  6. Maintain an information security policy

Keep Your Diners Safe and Secure - Learn Why Restaurant PCI Compliance is Essential

By ensuring PCI compliance, you can reassure your customers that your restaurant is a reliable establishment and safeguard their personal card information from potential breaches and downtime.

Additionally, PCI compliance shields you, the owner, from severe penalties and exorbitant fines, which may include:

  • Investigation of your point-of-sale (POS) system

  • Non-compliance fines with VISA and MasterCard

  • Reimbursement for purchases made using stolen cards

  • Replacement of stolen credit cards

  • Higher fees from banks and lenders

Because of this, you, as a business owner, must take precautions to shield both yourself and your clients from potential legal action or financial loss. These precautions include manual credit card data removal from your POS system and connected terminals and testing security policies for your internal business. This comprises:

  • Full cardholder account number

  • Cardholder name

  • Expiration date

  • Magnetic stripe data

  • EMV chip data

  • PIN numbers (where appropriate)

  • All authentication data

Most cloud-based POS systems will take care of the deletion for you, but if you are using a legacy system, you'll probably have to do it manually (and frequently).

Make Sure Your Restaurant is PCI Compliant with These 8 Easy Strategies

  1. Consider using a firewall - It is easy to ensure that sensitive cardholder data is not exposed to other businesses, visitors, or even random strangers by creating a digital barrier between payment data and a public internet network. Given the apparent ubiquity of Wi-Fi networks, data can be easily accessed if you are not careful. A firewall prevents this data from leaving your network, keeping your restaurant PCI compliant.

  2. Make sure to delete cardholder data - Credit card information is not required to be kept on file, and a good POS system will take care of deletions for you. However, if you must retain specific cardholder data, ensure it is stored separately from your main POS network and is securely encrypted to maintain PCI compliance.

  3. Make it a habit to change your password regularly - The vendor will frequently give you a generic password like "1234" or another easy-to-remember phrase when you set up a new POS or other credit card processing system. Change these default passwords as soon as your system is configured, and then establish a schedule for changing them to help ensure that only authorized staff members have access to cardholder’s data or any other company information.

  4. Update your restaurant POS software as soon as possible - Modern POS systems are constantly connected and updated, thanks to their cloud-based architecture, but some legacy software requires manual updating. If this is the situation at your restaurant, make sure to schedule the time to check, download, install, and troubleshoot updates regularly before service so that there are no surprises when your customers arrive and you can meet PCI compliance requirements.

  5. Keep cardholder information available to selected staff only - There is no need for your waitstaff to see the cardholder information, even though they may handle it. All the exposure they will require is to swipe or insert the card, complete the transaction, and remove the card. Ensure employees with access to cardholder information—such as management—only see it when no one else is around. To strengthen your case for complete PCI compliance, it is best to limit who handles card transactions entirely.

  6. Keep card transactions confidential- This is another "no-brainer" that many restaurants overlook. Every effort should be made to keep card processing hidden from the view of visitors and the public. Making a discreet area in your business where customers can enter their credit card information will help to keep it between them and the POS system. An even better choice is to spend money on a machine that accepts payments at the table. In this manner, the risk to the customer and your restaurant's PCI compliance is mitigated because the customer is always in full view of their credit card.

  7. Reduce the number of “Card-Not-Present” Transactions- The higher risk of fraud is why your POS provider charges you more for card-not-present transactions, in case you have ever wondered why. Even though you cannot completely prevent card-not-present transactions from occurring, such as those made during online purchases, ensure that entering a credit card number is the only option you would use in extreme cases.

  8. Make sure your system is also EMV compliant- EMV readers, also known as "the chip," are currently the international standard for credit card safety, though the US still has some catching up to do. It is possible to safeguard your guests' data and guard against chargebacks by ensuring that your POS and payment processing adheres to EMV standards.

What Will Happen if You Break Restaurant PCI Compliance Rules?

Credit card companies may impose fines of up to $100,000 for violating PCI compliance, depending on the seriousness and scope of the violation. Beyond the financial repercussions, however, a restaurant owner's main worry when choosing to disregard PCI compliance is the erosion of trust.

  • Lost trust of customers, who will choose other restaurants to frequent

  • Lost trust from creditors, who will prevent your business from accepting these cards

  • Lost the trust of regulators, who will levy even stronger penalties for further non-compliance.

These three things sound like a recipe for failure if you work in the food service industry; if they are not fixed, they will inevitably lead to the closure of your company. Therefore, despite the additional steps required to maintain PCI compliance for your restaurant, these additional steps are insignificant compared to the work required to correct a violation.

Meta Description: PCI compliance is a set of standards for all merchants who process credit or debit card transactions, regardless of size.

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