Danny Mizrahi is the CEO and Founder of ContagoIT, one of the hospitality world’s most sought-after technology consulting companies. He’s an expert at helping restaurants keep up with the industry’s lightning-fast pace by offering full-service tech support. From managing POS systems to securing data, ContagoIT is there to take some of the weight off of busy owners’ shoulders.
What’s the story behind ContagoIT?
I got into tech back in 2008, when I was a salesperson for a big technology company. During that time I learned what to do in a business—and what not to do. My boss wasn’t a great guy. He owed a lot of people money and eventually got run out of town!
I started ContagoIT about ten years ago, and now we have about 75 people on our team. As we were getting started, we really took hold of the term ‘cloud computing.’ People told us we were absolutely out of our minds, and that it would never work. Fast forward to today, and now every business in America is on the cloud.
We were Google’s first channel partner, which was a hussle story because I kept harassing them trying to get them on board. I knew they needed to start offering a technology solution through a channel, rather than selling directly to the consumer. About a year later they came to me and said, “Weren’t you the guy harassing us about the channel? We want to pick your brain about it.”
It was a big win for us, and we’ve gone from just being a cloud consulting and implementation company, to expanding our reach to offer a whole lot of other services.
For those of us who aren’t in the tech world, what exactly is technology consulting?
Essentially, we take the stress of the entire technology spectrum off of the business owner. We handle day-to-day IT support, as well as services like custom programming, outsourcing, CIO services, and voltage wiring. Our most popular offering is called Contango Unlimited, which is basically just unlimited on-site, remote, and outsource technology assistance, as well as services like budgeting and forecasting.
How can ContagoIT’s services help bars and restaurants?
For our clients in the hospitality space, we offer day-to-day IT support that includes everything from managing everyday tech tasks in the restaurant, to managing their point of sale, to the actual build-out. We can also help with their office space with things like email, servers, files, and backup solutions. A lot of times bigger brands also have cybersecurity requirements like antivirus and security, which my other company, GRSee, specializes in.
Can you give us some examples of restaurants you’ve worked with?
ContagoIT works with some really great brands like Magnolia Bakery, Bareburger, and Catch Steak! We also work with The Happy Cooking family of restaurants, which includes Joesph Leonard, Jeffery’s Grocery, Fairfax, and The Jones. All in all, there are about 150 restaurants we work with.
Even though you’re an IT company, do you feel like ContagoIT is part of the hospitality community?
We’re 100% referral-based, and we know some great people in the industry. You’re probably familiar with people like Andrew Rigie, who is like a godsend. As the head of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, he’s been great to us. A lot of people in the business have been good to us, and if there’s a technology need in the industry, usually it’ll come our way. Even if it’s just a second opinion, we’re here to help people, even if they’re not going to be a client.
What’s the biggest technology issue restaurants should look out for? Can you share any tech-related horror stories?
Cybersecurity is the biggest issue for every business, including hospitality. Things like hacking, ransomware, phishing, and spoofing. You know, those fake emails that go out and get you to click on stuff. And then once you click on stuff, they can get your password, and then sometimes it will encrypt your files and lock them out. If you don’t have the proper backup solution, you may have to pay the ransom. We’ve negotiated ransom in tons of instances.
We’ve also had situations where clients call us and say that they can no longer access the server they had in the cloud. That the tech company they were using— a ‘Joe Schmoe’ server, instead of something like Microsoft or Google—went out of business. We’ve seen people lose every single piece of data they had because the company managing their server went under.
And backup means nothing unless you know—and you’ve tested—your restore procedures. You don’t have disaster recovery if you don’t have a plan. At the end of the day, people tell me that they have a server and they have the files backed up elsewhere. And I say, okay, so let’s play this game: What happens if the server is on fire? What if there’s a water leak? Let’s pretend the server is completely dead. What are you going to do?
You’ve seen the inner workings of so many businesses, what’s the secret to setting a bar or restaurant up for success?
Just know your numbers. And that’s definitely how Craftable can help. If you don’t know your numbers, you don’t know your P & L, and then you don’t know how many cents you’re making on each product. A lot of the restaurateurs out there, I hate to say, weren’t in the business, but they had an idea and they had some funding—they’re doing a passion project. But if you’re not making a profit, it’s not a business. I think a lot of people just say, okay, whatever money is left over, that’ll be my profit. That’s not how it works.
Tell me about how Craftable fits into this.
As far as I know, the Craftable suite is some of the best software out there, if not the best software for front of house and back house. Really, the idea is to make the entrepreneur and the restaurateur as much money as possible.
I believe the Craftable suite of products is doing this for businesses—making them save money, make more money, analyze money, and make a profit. At the end of the day, that’s it, right?
That’s the bottom line. The Craftable suite of products are true, they’re proven, they have great support around them. I love when the Craftable team works with my clients because I know it’s going to go pretty well.
What’s next on the menu for restaurants and IT?
So, compliance is really hot right now. Cybersecurity is really hot right now. Hacking is really hot right now. We do the ethical hacking to make sure that we do it before someone else does it. And then just all-inclusive day-to-day IT support is huge. Getting that technology off of the business owner’s plate in an affordable manner—that’s super big.
ContangoIT’s goal is simple. To provide an efficient and effective service and product to customers, while keeping costs down and increasing business productivity.