How to Benefit From Free Wi-Fi

 In Bar & Restaurant Operations, Marketing

Individuals are regularly warned about the dangers of not protecting their wireless signal. The biggest problem of course being that neighbors will “piggyback” onto your router and increase how long it takes you to download that next batch of LOLcat pictures.

In all seriousness there are legitimate reasons for individuals to protect their wireless signal. With a bar or restaurant, though, free Wi-Fi could mean business.

So should you offer customers wireless access? In the words of Jane Bennet (Google it): Yes, yes. A thousand times yes!

The Why

There are a number of reasons offering free wireless internet access can benefit restaurants and bars. Here are the highlights:

The Internet Age: Increasingly there are more and more customers who will simply refuse to frequent businesses that do not offer wireless access. The ubiquity of smart phones and our culture’s desire to remain connected to friends via social media dictate that being without Wi-Fi for any period of time is unacceptable.

The infographic below shows just how enveloped we are in the Internet age…

Image Source: Daily Infographic

Marketing: Depending on the surroundings, it is possible a restaurant will be able to generate additional business just by having a Wi-Fi signal. In some areas potential customers will use the Wi-Fi finder on their phone to spot nearby internet options. It’s important to ensure you are one of those options.

Have Laptop, Will Travel: The hotel industry is notorious for charging guests an additional, daily fee to use the internet. Consequently, if you are located near areas frequented by travelers you may be able to draw additional business as those folks explore the area looking for a quick (and free) way to catch-up on email.

The How

The nice thing about offering customers free wireless internet access is that it doesn’t require much in the way of time or money on your part. But there are a few things to keep in mind once you’ve established wireless access is right for your business:

Proper Equipment: For security reasons you’re going to want the Wi-Fi you offer customers to be separate from your restaurant’s business network. So take a little time to research the best options for your locations in terms of hardware. Depending on your budget it may not be a bad idea to bring in an expert to help you set up your public network and advise you with regard to any additional concerns you may have.

Brag: Once you have your Wi-Fi set up, it’s critical to make the best use of the feature. Make certain your signal is renamed something that will lead people to your location: “Joe’sBar – Free WiFi,” etc. It is important that you have on-site signage mentioning that you offer free wireless and that you make reference to it in any adverting you do in newspapers, magazines or travel guides.

Martha’s Vineyard provides a detailed section on their website that lists that top spots in the area that are connected.

Are You Internet Friendly? It’s also important to make sure you are set up to handle those customers you’ll now be attracting. Do you have enough outlets? Are your seating areas conducive to the use of laptops? One more thing to consider is that if you want to increase turnover during peak business hours, it might be worth limiting free access to 60 minutes.

In conclusion, free Wi-Fi is a relatively inexpensive way to increase customer loyalty and potentially separate yourself from less tech-savvy competition.

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