Blog Post

The Importance of a Business Recovery Plan


Recently I was in one of those chain restaurants (the middle-priced, sit-down types) and shortly after we got there, we learned that their computer systems were on the fritz. Now, my IT savvy ears picked up things like "can't get an IP address" and "bootp screen" and the like so I knew they were in big trouble. Unfortunately, we had already ordered and were well into waiting for our meal to come out so we stuck it out. However, knowing it was going to be a long wait, I started to observe the wait staff and listened to what they were saying.

"Because our computer just went down, we can't get your order to the back."

This one struck me as bad, and the reason is because many restaurants work just fine on a pen and paper system. However, it was obvious that without the computer, the wait staff didn't know how to handle getting orders back to the kitchen. I couldn't see the kitchen, but I'm sure they would have struggled with getting orders from anything other than the computer system. I can tell you from the heated arguments I heard while we were there, this restaurant not only lost sales but they also lost customers, permanently. One of those customers made sure to remind the manager that something as simple as paper and pen can do wonders. His arguments back were less than satisfactory.

What all this showed was this business didn't have a business recovery plan if they lost their computer systems. It's an issue I've seen with other organizations I've tried to help out over the years. They have no plan on how to conduct their day-to-day operations without their systems. For some organizations, I can understand this. For instance, if you're a bank and you can't get to a person's financial records, you're not going to hand out money from their account without knowing they have the money in there for it. However, so many businesses CAN run without their core systems, maybe not in an ideal manner, but enough to limp along. It just requires some planning. These folks didn't have it.

"With our computers down, we can't process your credit card."

We paid in cash, because we always carry enough to cover a meal in a contingency just like this one. However, I still no plenty of small time merchants that have one of those manual imprint devices to capture the details of a customer's credit card. Combine this with knowing how to call a credit card in and get a confirmation number and you have a backup plan. Obviously, without the computer system, you can still do this. At the restaurant I was at, they couldn't. I doubt they had the ability to manually process a credit card. They should have, but again, they weren't prepared. As a result, they lost even more customers.

"I'm sorry, I don't know how much your bill is."

Once upon a time we could use pen and paper and addition plus a little multiplication to figure out what the total is. Barring that, there's this neat techincal invention called a calculator, and most modern cell phones have a calculator as part of their software. This isn't a lack of equipment issue. This is a lack of training/knowledge problem. That irate customer that blasted the manager before pointed out that when she ran a small restaurant, they added up the bills in their heads but if it was too much to do so, they knew how to use a calculator. Again, the manager didn't have an answer.

Summing All This Up:

Obviously, there was no business recovery plan. There was also a complete failure of leadership. The processes that fell apart have tried and true workarounds, ones that existed before the age of computers. However, the management over the restaurant was incapable of trying to institute any of these. I can understand about not being able to process the credit cards if they didn't have an imprint machine. But the rest of it? As we used to say at The Citadel, "Sir, no excuse, sir!"

Here's the thing: with a proper business recovery plan, the management would have had the tools it needed to keep the restaurant up and running. Well, that is if the employees were trained on it. So it's not only important to have a business recovery plan, but it's also important to test it. Figure out what works and what doesn't. You never know when you're going to need it.


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