BigHospitality discovers that offering free wireless coverage on your premises is no longer a luxury – it's a necessity if you want to keep your customers happy.
Internet usage in restaurants is becoming ever more common. Whereas in the past it was something customers expected to pay for, with better broadband connections at home and in the office, many are now reluctant to pay exorbitant charges for wireless coverage when they're out and about.
However, although restaurants may not be able to make a lot of cash upfront from Wi-Fi users any more, offering free Wi-Fi in a restaurant can increase foot traffic and overall sales according to Dublin-based freehotspot.com, which operates over 1,000 free Wi-Fi hotspots in 16 European countries including the UK, France, Germany and Italy.
The Wi-Fi user demographic is, said a spokesperson, "a lucrative one for those in the hospitality industry: young, dynamic and with plenty of disposable income, the average Wi-Fi user is a reliable consumer of highend products, as well as drinks, dinner and nights out with friends."
Although there are plenty of multinational companies like T-Mobile and BTOpenzone who offer paid-for services, these will often only see one to three users a day, whereas free usage typically attracts three times that number, according to freehotspot.com.
Wi-Fi providers vary in what packages they offer, from the length of time restaurateurs have to sign up to installation fees and technical back-up for staff and customers.
Joe Brunoli, Vice President of HotSpot Market Development for free-hotspot.com has the following advice to restaurateurs who want to provide Wi-Fi:
- Go with a reputable provider that has a good customer service system and which also has a free phone line for customers if they have any problems.
- Make sure you get a flexible package. Many restaurateurs like to turn the Wi-Fi off during busy times or when the restaurant is closed.
- Be wary of paid-for systems on offer. You may get a 50 per cent cut of profits but 50 per cent of zero is still zero.
- Take just any old Wi-Fi package; check that the provider is reputable and well-established, so that it can cope with Wi-Fi on both phones and computers.
- Sign up to a long term package. Some providers want you to take five years but technology changes so quickly, as do restaurants, that the services may become obsolete.
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