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Time to take control of your website?

Spice Business Magazine has received a number of calls from different res- taurateurs 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 signifi- cant 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 host- ing 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 copy- right 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 res- taurant 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.

Abdul Haque

The most important recommenda- tions 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 espe- cially important in the event that a website is hacked over the weekend or holiday period and the web devel- oper 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 compa- nies out there, but make sure you get a personal recommendation about their track record before signing up with one. As Mohammed Aslam, manag- ing director of the Aagrah Restaurant Group, points out, “You must check the previous work of the web designer before committing yourself. It will only

the developer’s real level of involve- ment, 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 pro- fessional web designer to make sure he or she has a proven track record. Also make sure you have a written agreement covering design, copy- right 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 differ- ent colours and few photos. There are templates you can use but you must make sure that your restaurant iden- tity 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 crimi- nal prospection.

Mohammad Aslam

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

take a short time to get this informa- tion which could be extremely valuable to you, and potentially save a signifi- cant 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 show- ing 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

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