Having a restaurant filled with people on their laptops or tablets can be good for business — or not, depending on your vibe. So if you’re a restaurant owner, you might be wondering, “Should my restaurant offer free Wi-Fi?”
For some restaurants, having lingering patrons working remotely inside your eatery helps sustain business when otherwise there is a normally light lunch crowd. But if you’re looking to turn your tables over faster, offering free Wi-Fi is probably not your best bet.
Let’s dive into a few reasons why you should offer free Wi-Fi.
Customers spend more time at your restaurant
When free Wi-Fi is offered, 62 percent of businesses reported that their customers spend more time there, which means more sales. The longer stay encourages customers to refuel on coffee or food throughout the day, especially if they’re working. In fact, 53 percent of diners said they’re happy to sit alone at a bar, cafe, or restaurant if free Wi-Fi is available. By offering this service, you’re also more likely to generate repeat business.
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You could get free marketing
When there’s free Wi-Fi, it’s easier for patrons to upload a photo or post to social media touting your drool-worthy avocado toast. You can even encourage people to post with a hashtag that allows customers to win something. Millennials tend to find their eateries of choice online, so this is a win-win.
Keep up with the competition
In this tech era, customers have come to expect free Wi-Fi at establishments. By offering it, you can stay ahead of competition and keep up with those who already offer it.
However, there are a few cons to offering free Wi-Fi:
Restaurant ambience may suffer
If every patron is typing on their laptop, there’s little room for human connection and face-to-face contact. Some restaurants have banned Wi-Fi because they want their eatery to be a place of social interaction. Also, 50 open laptops are not nearly as attractive to customers walking in as those cute plates you chose and spent hours agonizing over.
Some customers will only order one cup of coffee
You’ll want to train your waiters and staff to still visit the customers who have already ordered and encourage further refills or a snack to increase your sales.
You run a risk of being exposed to hackers
With free Wi-Fi comes the risk of people hacking into your restaurant’s secure data. Be sure to invest up front in protecting your data and having separate, private Wi-Fi for your staff and business dealings.
The costs, economics, and logistics of free Wi-Fi
If you do decide to offer free Wi-Fi, you now have to make sure you do it right. Depending on how many seats you have in your restaurant, think about how many customers might be using Wi-Fi at one time.
The estimated number of people using the Wi-Fi also determines the type of modem and router you get, as well as the internet speed you select.
You should also look into Wi-Fi protected access technologies, otherwise known as WPA and WPA2. This means a customer has to enter a password from the router’s hot spot, and then the technology sets up an encrypted (encoded) channel between the customer’s computer and the IP.
You also want to ensure that your staff’s Wi-Fi is private and different from guest Wi-Fi. This helps protect your data from hackers.
While this might seem like a costly headache, the average small business can actually be set up to offer free Wi-Fi for about $50 , with the monthly cost varying based on the internet speed. You can expect to pay as little as $20 a month for the Wi-Fi service. But if your average ticket sale per customer increases, then the cost could be quickly offset.
To get started, you can contact the provider of your phone line and ask them for a quote for your business.
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