Time to take control of your website?

February 2, 2013 No Comments

62loresSpice Business Magazine has received a number of calls from different restaurateurs over the past few months complaining about website and email problems. The internet is such an important part of the business today that IT issues can have significant negative consequences for any restaurant.

On one occasion a restaurant website was hacked and the culprits deleted all its contents. The result was a big loss of business through reduced online ordering and booking, as well as the loss of a lot of data that had been stored. The restaurant also had to spend thousands of pounds to get the website re-designed from scratch, as there was no back-up and the hosting company did not keep a back-up either.

Some restaurateurs with little IT knowledge assign the whole task of setting up and managing a website for their business to a web developer. The developer buys the domain name and the hosting package and runs the restaurant‘s website. Technically the restaurateur does not own the domain name, which is generally based on the restaurant’s actual name. In some cases unscrupulous web developers can effectively hold the restaurant to ransom, denying them access to the main control panel, and demanding a small fortune for the restaurant to have control over what was supposed to be theirs from the beginning.

Some restaurateurs pay a flat monthly fee to web designers who run and update the sites, but this can also lead to problems. Spice Business has had reports of websites being down because of the renewal fees not being paid. Sometimes also updates have not been made as agreed. In addition some web developers may use copyright photos from the internet without paying for them, but the end result is that the owner of the restaurant is the one who faces legal challenges.

Security issues can also be a problem. Malicious hackers may hijack a website and compromise its integrity. Visitors who clicked onto a well-known restaurant chain’s website were recently directed to a site selling viagra and other medications. Aside from the embarrassment there must have been a significant loss of business.

The most important recommendations are that restaurateurs should get domain names registered to their own business, have good control over their web developers and, finally, back up data frequently. This is especially important in the event that a website is hacked over the weekend or holiday period and the web developer is not available. Restaurants should learn how they can upload the back-up immediately themselves, by saving a website copy file on their own computer.

There are good, reliable and honest web developers and hosting companies out there, but make sure you get a personal recommendation about their track record before signing up with one. As Mohammed Aslam, managing director of the Aagrah Restaurant Group, points out, “You must check the previous work of the web designer before committing yourself. It will only take a short time to get this information which could be extremely valuable to you, and potentially save a significant amount of money later on.”

It is important not just to take the web developer’s word for it when they say they have designed a particular restaurant’s website, perhaps showing impressive images on a computer screen. Phone up the restaurant and ask the owner what his experience has been. Take a genuine reference first hand. This can avoid the possibility that the developer’s real level of involvement, and also the degree of customer satisfaction, can be misrepresented.

Abdul Haque MD of Purple i Technologies, agrees, He says, “It is very important when engaging a professional web designer to make sure he or she has a proven track record. Also make sure you have a written agreement covering design, copyright and who holds the domain name so you are not taking a risk with your business in future.”

Web expert, B. Agarwal, accepts that there are ‘cowboys’ in the web sector, as in every other industry. He adds, “I have come across people selling the same website design and copy writing to lots of companies, just with different colours and few photos. There are templates you can use but you must make sure that your restaurant   identity is reflected in the website.”

If you experience ‘cowboy’ behaviour you can report it to trading standards immediately. They can advise what action can be taken and that can, in certain circumstances, include criminal prospection.

The relationship with a web developer or designers should be a long term partnership. It takes time to build up mutual confidence and understanding of what is required. This makes it doubly important that the relationship is built on firm foundations from the beginning.

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