Internet Access For The Cost Of A Cup Of Coffee

The NY Times is looking at the question (always popular around here) as to whether or not places like restaurants and cafes should be charging for WiFi access – or whether they should make it free, as a promotional item that draws in more customers. There isn’t much new in the article, which can be summarized as Schlotzky’s vs. Starbucks, in some ways. The interesting to me, is the ROI calculation that Schlotzky’s gives, saying that their free WiFi is paying off many times over. Studies have shown that 6% of their customers come in because of the free WiFi, generating over $100,000 in incremental revenue… for a much smaller cost. At the same time, they get some free advertising, because the first web site that pops up is Schlotzky’s own website. Of course, they’re also getting free advertising because everyone writing a similar article seems to mention them. The article also leaves out one of my favorite arguments for why these places should offer WiFi for free. These operations have a core competence in offering food and drinks. They’re not ISPs, and expecting people to pay for the service also brings with it certain expectations. The costs associated with pretending they’re an ISP could be much higher than the fees from a few people paying for WiFi. These places are serving food. Why do they suddenly want to be ISPs also?

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