Wired World: Should Your Restaurant Offer Free WiFi?
When Starbucks introduced WiFi at it’s many locations in 2001, it was considered a special perk; I used to be excited when the hotels my cross country team stayed at offered free internet access. More and more, though, it’s becoming an expectations. In a college town, for instance, many students won’t go to coffee shops or bakeries that don’t have free internet access, since so much of the work and studying they do happens to be online. The same’s true of professionals who park themselves at a table in the morning or on the weekend to check their email or catch up on a little last minute work. If these types of establishments don’t have free WiFi in 2012, it’s thought of as an aberration — something customers complain about to their friends.
So the short answer is yes, your restaurant should offer free WiFi. Many owners are hesitant to provide WiFi only because they fear people will take over tables all day without ordering anything or providing business. This fear is largely unfounded — the type of restaurant that customers expect to offer internet service (coffee shops, bakeries, delis, etc. — anywhere people often dine alone or bring work along) will see repeat purchases from patrons who hang around all day. I’ve been at a coffee shop long enough to buy three large coffees and two muffins, myself; sometimes that’s what it takes to get through a hard assignment like a paper. Additionally, you could consider locking your WiFi and posting signs that customers can ask for the password at the counter, register, etc. This can prevent abuse from people who don’t intend to buy anything, while still allowing paying customers to get online.
For certain establishments, there’s really no reason not to have WiFi; it’s like air conditioning — customers expect it. And if you don’t already offer free internet access, it’ll bring in a different type of consumer who might hang out for a while and purchase things throughout the day. Why wouldn’t you want that?
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