Many business owners — especially restaurateurs — grapple with the idea of offering free Wi-Fi at their establishments. Naturally, there are both pros and cons to providing this service to customers. But, the advantages of providing free Wi-Fi are overwhelming in comparison to the disadvantages and can have positive results for your business. In fact, many of the cons or worries you may have about offering free Wi-Fi can be easily resolved, so you can offer your guests internet access without the stress of hurting your business. In this guide, we break down the advantages and disadvantages of providing free Wi-Fi at your restaurant, as well as how to set it up to be successful.
One of the most essential things about offering free Wi-Fi to customers is how it affects business and sales. By providing your guests with internet access, you can actually boost sales. Customers are more likely to stay at your restaurant longer if they have internet access. Business people or students may want some extra time to finish up their work, or groups of friends may wish to stay longer to stay connected to their social media pages. Whatever the case may be, people are willing to purchase more items in order to use your Wi-Fi. In this case, you are making more sales so that they can stay connected. In fact, according to Devicescape, 62% of business owners responded that customers spent more time at their establishment since they began offering Wi-Fi, while 50% said that customers ended up spending more money.
People are constantly posting pictures on their social media pages when they're at a restaurant. Before they even take a bite of the mouthwatering meal, the first thing they do is snap a picture and post it online. The good news: this is essentially free marketing for your restaurant. If a guest is enjoying the food, drinks, and experience at your establishment, they're going to want to share it with followers and tag their location in the post as well. This is all made simpler with free Wi-Fi, which will allow guests to upload their heart-worthy food pictures much faster.
You can also use free Wi-Fi as a marketing tool by allowing your guests to connect to the internet to post a review of your restaurant. Consider directing customers to a review page after they connect to the Wi-Fi and offering a discount or free dessert as an incentive to leave a review before exiting the page. It'll be easier for guests if they're connected to your Wi-Fi service, so it's at no cost to them.
People will often choose dining at an establishment that offers free Wi-Fi over one that does not after seeing it online or hearing from a fellow customer. This amenity can set you apart from competitors who may have a slower connection or do not offer the service. It's important to be aware of customers' wants so you can better serve them at your establishment. People often go to a restaurant or cafe to get some work done with a reliable connection they may not have access to elsewhere or an environment that limits their distractions. Therefore, people will look to your establishment as a place that cares about its customers and feel comfortable at. This helps you build a loyal customer base.
As many businesses move toward being cashless, this has also led many consumers to prefer to pay cashless as well. Providing free Wi-Fi makes contactless payments much easier and more convenient. It allows your patrons to connect to their digital wallet easily, and they may appreciate a business that is moving toward more easily accessible ways of paying. Guests can access a payment portal right from their tables — through a QR code or link — alleviating the need to wait for a server to come around with the check.
Helps You Reach International Customers
An advantage of offering free Wi-Fi that may go overlooked is the accessibility it gives international customers. Especially if you are located in an area visited by many tourists, having a way for international guests to access Wi-Fi is crucial. International visitors will often exclusively dine at a restaurant that offers them internet connection, so this can set you ahead of other nearby spots that may not give them this amenity. They rely on the internet because they may not have a secure international data plan, and want to stay connected.
Additionally, if there is a language barrier, having a Wi-Fi connection available allows the customers and your staff to use an online translating website or app to better communicate. This offers more accessibility to your international guests, allowing them to enjoy what your spot has to offer without the worry of miscommunication. Not only will this benefit all parties involved, but your guests will appreciate the extra step taken to make them feel comfortable and heard.
Disadvantages Of Offering Free Wi-Fi
Can Alter The Environment
One of the biggest hesitations restaurateurs have when it comes to offering free Wi-Fi is its potential to ruin the ambiance of their restaurant. This is an understandable qualm to have; businesses take a lot of time and effort in building a specific atmosphere for their establishment. By offering free Wi-Fi, there is the possibility people will have their heads glued to their phones and laptops, altering the vibe. Owners want their space to be one where people can come together to communicate and interact in person. By having people glued to their devices, this interpersonal connection could be taken away.
People May Take Advantage Of Service
Many restaurateurs hesitate to offer free Wi-Fi at their establishments because they fear patrons will misuse it. This means they worry that customers will come in and buy only one item, just to spend hours using the Wi-Fi service. Unfortunately, this is something that can potentially happen with a free Wi-Fi service, but there are ways to combat it. To avoid this, you can make sure your staff continuously checks in on them and encourages them to buy something or limit the time guests can spend on your Wi-Fi. You can do this by having the service cut off after a certain amount of time and limiting the amount of time users can spend on your network. This allows you to have control over how long people are using the Wi-Fi without them taking advantage of it and hurting your sales.
Keep in mind: Limiting the Wi-Fi access may not be ideal; you want your guests to see this service as a benefit, not a hindrance. By restricting their access, they may opt to go to a location that offers them access that fits their needs. Consider only limiting the number of hours guests can spend on your Wi-Fi if it begins to hurt your business or if it is necessary to keep your profits up.
Risk Of Hackers
By opening your Wi-Fi service to customers, you can also potentially open it to the risk of hackers. Make sure your guest Wi-Fi is separate from your business/employee Wi-Fi so no one else can potentially reach the network connection with your restaurant's information. You not only want to keep your business's information safe, but also your customers' information. To adhere to this, make sure you have a security system set in place. Invest in Wi-Fi protected access, or WPA or WPA2. These technologies use encryption and passwords to provide safe service. You want to minimize the potential for risk because you want your customers to feel safe in trusting your internet service. Keeping personal information safe is of utmost importance.
How To Set Up Free Wi-Fi
- Choose a reliable Internet provider: Do your research to find a reliable internet provider for your business. If you already have Wi-Fi for you and your staff, make sure they offer high-speed service; if not, consider switching providers. Get in contact with the internet provider to set up a separate connection that is accessible for guests only. That way, you can keep your business's information secure and separate from the network guests will be using.
- Opt for the faster service: Free Wi-Fi is as good as none if it's unreliable. Guests want high-speed, reliable connection, so opting for the faster service will pay off in the long run. Customers will appreciate the strong connection and will remember your establishment as having reliable service, making them more likely to return.
- Make sure you have the right equipment: Having the necessary equipment is just as crucial as the internet provider. Make sure you have a proper baling, modem, and router — or a modem and router combination. Keep in mind that having your router in the back of your restaurant will be far from access points, so consider having it closer to where guests will be.
- Set up a password: Choose a password that allows guests to access the Wi-Fi network. This keeps passersby or other people in the area from accessing your Wi-Fi without being a customer. You can provide the password on guests' receipts, written on a sign, or posted somewhere on the tables.
- Set up a captive portal: You can also set up a captive portal, which is a page guest will see when they try to connect to the Wi-Fi. You can set it up to require them to insert their information, such as their name, email address, or even socials. This page allows you to inform guests of your terms and conditions and lets you gain access to guest information. You can have coupon codes, special offers, or general information about your establishment.
Having free Wi-Fi at your establishment can be beneficial for your business. It's important to do what is best for your business and customers. By acknowledging the advantages of this service, such as increased sales, free marketing, and attracting customers, you can make the decision that best fits your needs. Letting your customers stay connected is easy, efficient, and will keep them coming back!