How Will Muni-WiFi Impact Retail WiFi?

from the changing-times dept

We've noted in the past how bread maker Panera bread was quite happy with the results of its free WiFi offering, claiming that it improved business -- bringing in more customers and having them stay longer, especially during off-peak hours. That was a claim that was seen over and over again with early efforts at retail WiFi. However, times are changing in a variety of interesting ways. First, as more people have WiFi-enabled laptops and devices, suddenly what was just filling in the slow times means that some retail establishments are now getting upset at overcrowding by the laptop crowd. We noted this last year when one Seattle coffee shop decided it had had enough and simply turned off the free WiFi on weekends. Now, however, comes a report that Panera, one of the champions of free WiFi, may be turning off free WiFi during peak hours in order to keep the connected crew from clogging up the seating. It's unclear if this is a Panera-wide policy, or something that was just instituted at this one location. However, as the writer points out, the city of Santa Monica, where this took place, is offering free muni-WiFi in the same area -- meaning that turning off the WiFi won't necessarily stop people from connecting (though, it also means people can go to other nearby places and still use WiFi as well). This could raise some questions about how all of these muni-WiFi efforts will impact the various coffee shops and other retail establishments that have been using free WiFi to attract more business.


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  1.  
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    -_-, Jan 11th, 2006 @ 4:12am

    No Subject Given

    apparently the business model wont last too long if there shutting it off to keep people away....


    muni wifi is awsome, too bad i dont have it, i might move to the city of fruits berries and alot of nuts(san fran) to get it, cuz personally cable is over expensie(i use it) and sbc....absolutely no comment, read up on their execs...

     

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  2.  
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    Ben McNelly, Jan 11th, 2006 @ 6:54am

    No Subject Given

    this looks like less of an established change and more of just a smart move. As far as setting back the advancement of wireless, I think this is mis-interprited. Now, if they start running sbc dsl to each table, wearing green robes and hoods, and start only hireing homesexuals, then we might have a problem. I am not sure what it is, but it would be a problem.

     

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  3.  
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    The Other Mike, Jan 11th, 2006 @ 6:57am

    No Subject Given

    Personally they couldn't take away the free wifi in these coffee shops quick enough for me. But then again I have had to help deal with companies that didn't want to disclose customer information when they commit a crime using that connection.

    I suspect that that is the real problem (informed) politicians have with open wifi. We are to the point that a (non-tech) person is no longer anonymous on the internet. When you have open wifi connections everywhere then you are no longer able to track down who did what (that virus didn't come from one of my machines - it must have come from my open wifi). I suppose they could hold the person who owns the connection responsible, but given the reaction to that so far...

     

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  4.  
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    Idea_Guy, Jan 11th, 2006 @ 7:49am

    No Subject Given

    What if when someone checked out at the cash register, the cashier asked if they would like to use the free Wi-fi? Then the register created an account for this customer complete with different login and password for each customer. Logging off would get rid of the account. Then only a customer would be using the connection. It might fill some empty seats with the right people. Just an idea.

     

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  5.  
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    Joe Snuffy, Jan 11th, 2006 @ 8:19am

    No Subject Given

    You know what would bring more customers? Paying less then $5 for a cup of freakin coffee.

     

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  6.  
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    haggie, Jan 11th, 2006 @ 9:50am

    No Subject Given

    Forget that it is Wi-Fi, it is just a promotion and smart business owners don't offer promotions at times when their business is running at or near full capacity.

    You don't see popular restaurants offering specials at 8pm on Saturday, but go to the restaurant at 6pm on Tuesday and most savvy restaurateurs will have a prixe fix special.

     

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  7.  
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    docta v, Jan 11th, 2006 @ 10:09am

    Re: No Subject Given

    No one is forcing you to buy a latte. A small coffee at Starbucks is $1.50.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Dakota, Jan 11th, 2006 @ 2:40pm

    No Subject Given

    What if when someone checked out at the cash register, the cashier asked if they would like to use the free Wi-fi? Then the register created an account for this customer complete with different login and password for each customer. Logging off would get rid of the account. Then only a customer would be using the connection. It might fill some empty seats with the right people. Just an idea.


    Just an idea, and a good one at that. I used to go to a local Panera to study but no longer due o several things.

    Too many yuppies (or whatever they are called now), soccer moms (with unrestrained children) and salesmen using WiFi to make a sales pitch.

    Sour, bitter and generally crappy coffee.

    90% of their bread products are made from the same basic "starter" dough.

    Ever wonder why most of their stuff tastes the same? Because it mostly IS the same.

    ...but I digress.

    As much as I like it, free WiFi is a nice "extra" but is not a "right" as a consumer.

    If I was the manager of the local Panera (thank god I'm not) I'd institute a similar policy.

    WiFi is free, with purchase (login code on the receipt) for a limited time (20 minutes, half hour, whatever works)... except between the hours of 11am and 1pm where its only good for 1/2 the usual time.

    If I owned a business, I would want to maximize my profit during peak hours.

    College students and sales pitching drug reps who are "camping out" result in people who walk in, see the line, look again and see full up tables and walk right back out.


    I've moved over to a local bagel shop a couple of blocks away.

    They never get slammed over the lunch hour.
    They have GOOD coffee with free refills.
    More access to plug-ins.
    No one giving you dirty looks for tying up a table.
    Prettier girls on their staff.

     

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