So far 2020 has not been a fun year for businesses in Canada and around the World. When COVID-19 hit, many business owners were caught off guard and sent into panic mode.  Some industries fared better than others, like the bicycle industry, while many others suffered greatly. 

With over 800,000 restaurant workers layed off in March alone, this industry was one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. Further, experts predict that 30% of restaurants will not survive COVID-19, and it will take years for the industry to recover.

So where does this leave restaurant owners?

Out of Chaos comes Clarity

Many will throw in the towel and move on, while some will pivot and adapt. I am a believer that out of chaos comes clarity, and I am curious to see how different industries re-invent themselves when the dust starts to settle.

It’s already happening in Toronto with Paramount Fine Foods building a fully automated restaurant. This is a great example of an entrepreneur who is not waiting for COVID-19 to decide his businesses fate, and instead creating the future.  I’m sure we will see more restaurants, and other hard-hit industries, moving to new business models such as this one.

Security System for Restaurants

I could not tell you the first thing about opening a restaurant, but I’ve been in the security industry for over 15 years, and I do know security. I can’t go a day without walking into an establishment, and instantly start spotting the holes in their security system.

If you observed me walking around, you would think I am crazy.  I am always looking up at security cameras, checking out doors, and calculating the easiest way for a criminal to break in.

When I read the article about Paramount opening the first automated restaurant, I instantly thought about how I would secure it. Which products would I use, how much would it cost, and how would I design the system?

Restaurant Security SystemSecurity Cameras

I would start with Security Cameras. What better way is there to keep an eye on your business while social distancing.

There is a ton of security camera systems available.  The basic ones can be purchased at Costco, here is the link, but these systems can be annoying and unreliable. 

I would go with either a full cloud solution, like Eagle Eye, or a Hybrid Cloud Solution like Verkada or Open Eye.

Cloud Video Surveillance is becoming popular, and every manufacturer is trying to move in this direction. Some are doing better at marketing than they are at innovating, so be careful.

I don’t recommend full cloud video for every business, but it’s an excellent choice for smaller camera counts. I cannot imagine an automated restaurant requiring more than 7-12 cameras, making this a perfect scenario for cloud video.

Eagle Eye has been the leader, providing full cloud video surveillance solutions before the term was invented. Verkada, although a newer manufacturer, has a solid hybrid solution, and is even great for businesses that want to install it themselves.  OpenEye is also a hybrid cloud solution but offers a more price competitive solution.

Eagle Eye Cloud Video Surveillance

Eagle Eye is an open platform, which means you can add whatever Security Camera brand you like. A 2MP or 3MP would be more than enough. With real estate being tight, you won’t need to worry about a big DVR or NVR.  Eagle Eye has a selection of compact bridges, that can be mounted anywhere.  The purpose of the bridge is to buffer video locally, and then send it up to the cloud for storage.  Their Cloud Video Management System is slick and very easy-to-use.

Verkada Hybrid Cloud Camera Systems

Verkada DomeVerkada, on the other hand, is a proprietary solution.  This means that you need to use Verkada Cameras and Software.  There is a bit of a risk being tied into one vendor, but it is not a deal breaker.  The benefit is, you have one manufacturer to deal with if something goes wrong.  The main difference with Verkada is that the video is stored locally on the camera and doesn’t get pushed to the cloud.  The cameras come with solid state hard drives, which are very stable, and users login to Verkada’s Cloud Application, Command, to manage their security camera system. There is very little hardware required to setup a Verkada security camera system, all you need is the cameras. The result is an easy to install solution, that can even be done by the IT department.

OpenEye Cloud Managed Video Surveillance

OpenEye is like what most customers are used to, where you need to purchase a DVR or NVR.  The biggest difference between Restaurant Security SystemOpenEye and the cheap recorders is that they have a great cloud interface to manage your cameras.  Anyone that has used a no name or cheap DVR/NVR, can tell you how annoying those systems are to use.  The software is clunky, and the recorders are unreliable.  On the other hand, OpenEye has done an excellent job at providing a cost-effective video recorder, with easy-to-use cloud software. Further to this, OpenEye is an open platform, meaning that existing cameras can also record on their system.

Why Cloud Video?

Easy Access to your Cameras

You do not have to worry about port forwarding, changing IP addresses, or software downloads.  With a cloud connected video surveillance system, you login to your cameras online, and it is always there.

Easily Create Users to View Video

To add users to your security camera system, simply enter the persons email, and press send.  They will receive the credentials and be logged into the cameras in minutes.  No need to call support and ask for the link to download software.  No need to waste time trying to setup a user in a software that looks like it’s from the 90’s.

Video Backup

With a full cloud solution, all your video is backed up offsite.  No need to worry about data loss or missing video. With hybrid cloud, you can save clips in the cloud for backup.

Upgrades and Add-ons

With a cloud solution, you will not have to worry about upgrades to the software. It’s always up to date and ready when you login.  That feeling of having to upgrade a system is annoying, especially when you are ready to add cameras and locations down the road.

Access Control

Restaurant Security SystemNext I would look at Access Control and figure out how to easily control my doors. Do you really need to have a manager, or employee, manually lock and unlock the doors each day?  Is this the best and most efficient way to do this? Everything else is automated, why not automate your doors, keep an audit trail of who’s entering which doors, and have them auto lock/unlock on schedule.

With an access control system, you can get rid of your key’s and have everything controlled electronically.

For an automated restaurant, with low door counts, I would go with a Brivo Access Control Solution

Brivo ACS100 ReaderThis is one of the only true cloud-based access control systems available on the market.  Brivo has been providing Cloud Access Control since 1999.  That is a long time.  They recently introduced the Brivo ACS100, which is a single door controller with a built-in reader. It can be mounted next to the door and cabled back to a network switch.  The result is a simple, clean, and low-cost access control solution.

You can use Brivo Mobile, which eliminates the need for key fobs and cards, instead users can open doors with their phones. If a contractor needs to get in after hours, and you don’t want to send someone to unlock the door, Brivo Mobile Passsimply assign them a mobile pass.  Add a schedule to the pass and they can only get into the space during the times you specify. Once their pass expires, it’s gone from the phone, and you don’t need to worry about it.

Through Brivo’s easy-to-use cloud interface, or app, you can easily setup schedules for doors to lock/unlock. Further, you can setup notifications for doors being held open for too long, forced open, or propped open.

Access Control Guide

Alarm System

For the alarm system, I would choose the DSC Touch, an All-in-One wireless alarm system with excellent features. It has a built-in camera Restaurant Security Systemthat takes a snapshot of the person disarming the system.  With built-in WIFI, Bluetooth, and Z-Wave technology, you can easily add different devices to be controlled remotely.

For example, you can add temperature sensors, flood detectors, lighting control, etc.

With built-in integration to Alarm.com, this alarm system can be controlled from a mobile app or computer.  Easily add and remove users, setup arm/disarm schedules, and even control all your z-wave devices. Further, you can setup a notification to be sent if the alarm does not arm at the scheduled time.

Add Video Verification

Annoyed with false alarm calls in the middle of the night?  Tie in some security cameras, and easily add video verification for your alarm system.  When an alarm is triggered, the monitoring station will get a video clip to verify if the its false.  If it is a true crime in progress, we can skip the “false” alarm phone call and get the police there within 10 minutes.

It is a tough time to be a restaurant owner, and I sympathize with the hard decision’s that need to be made. I hope other restaurant owners can make some similar moves to Paramount Fine Foods and we end up seeing a quicker recovery across the industry.

If you liked this article, please share it.  You have probably heard about Fever Detection Cameras, I would not recommend them, especially for a restaurant.  Here is a piece I wrote on Fever Detection Cameras. There is a ton of empty real estate space and stalled projects around the GTA, you may like this piece on Mobile Security Camera Solutions.  Also, like many other businesses, I had to move Spotter Security to a fully remote office, this article has some tips on how we did it.