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Restaurant Technology and Marketing: Become a Hotspot!



Restaurant Technology and Marketing: Become a Hotspot!

More and more restaurants, especially fast casual, coffee shop, and quick service chains, are becoming WiFi internet hotspots, allowing customers to plug in to an internet network directly from their laptop computer at their table.

Turning your restaurant into a hotspot is relatively easy and has proven to help boost lunch sales by as much as 8%.  It also encourages customers to come in during that extremely slow period between lunch and dinner, and helps facilitate business meetings, which can translate into some good sales for your establishment.

If you are considering setting up a WiFi hotspot in your restaurant, keep a few key things in mind:

Give away internet service for free.  First of all, that’s what most other hotspots do, and so your customer already expects to get service for free.  Secondly, you’ll be increasing sales and customer loyalty by giving away free internet.

Password protect the network.  Have servers give out the password to patrons when they are seated.  This helps prevent people from neighboring buildings from pirating your connection and slowing it down.

Make electrical outlets scarce.  When WiFi hotspots were first brought in to restaurants, many owners worried that patrons would turn into serial “table campers,” hanging out for hours on end without ordering anything more than a cup of coffee and surfing the net.  The reality has been that the vast majority of customers do not overstay the standard table turnover time, however, the best way to ensure this is to make sure they can’t plug in their laptops.  That thing is going to run out of juice eventually, and this helps your restaurant avoid abuse of your WiFi connection.

Create separate networks for customers and internal use.  Just because you already have an internet network set up for your business’ computers doesn’t mean you should make that same network available to customers.  The last thing you want is some creative patron getting in to your POS system or other important information through your network.  Spend the four or five hundred dollars to get a dedicated business class router for your customer network.  That way everything stays separated and secure.

WiFi isn’t for every restaurant concept.  Carefully consider who you want to target with your WiFi service and what kind of customer is likely to use it.  Obviously, a fine dining atmosphere targeted towards couples out on dates doesn’t jibe well with a WiFi service.  On the other hand, if that’s your dinner crowd but you want to jump into the business lunch market, advertising a WiFi network could make a lot of sense.  Understanding your customer is key to any marketing strategy, and implementing a WiFi network is no exception.

There’s a lot of talk about customers looking for value these days when they go out to eat, and providing a WiFi network in your restaurant, provided it makes sense, is just one more way you can do that.

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2 Responses to Restaurant Technology and Marketing: Become a Hotspot!

  1. Preston May 5, 2009 at 9:34 am #

    Great article on WiFi and restaurants. It’s not just for coffee houses anymore.

  2. Ken Burgin August 4, 2009 at 3:22 pm #

    Agree with Preston – and anyone with an iPhone likes to plug into the host’s network if possible to avoid using up their data plan.

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