One of the aftermaths of tropical storm Irene was power outage. And with many people out of power during the time, thousands of hungry customers went out in troops to local eateries to get internet access, check their emails and charge their portable electronic gadgets.
Restaurants reported that on the last week of August, their dining places saw a considerable increase in breakfast, lunch; afternoon snacks and dinner sales, as a lot of customers were out of electricity and lingered in the restaurants all day.
“Our Monday night became a Friday night, as we came very busy,” said Lyn Metivier, proprietor of Mike’s Restaurant in Fairhaven. “The numbers became so high we ran out of pizza by the time the day ended.”
“A lot of our customers were unable to cook at their homes,” said Susan Nunes, a server at Angelo’s Orchid Diner in New Bedford. “We were incredibly busy, and our customers were thankful that we were open despite the hurricane.”
And it wasn’t just the food that the people were after. Customers flocked to the restaurants to obtain complimentary access to the internet and charge their mobile phones—and restaurants which offered these services benefited immensely.
Coping up with the times, restaurants have come up with an important amenity that proved to be a sure way to generate traffic –free Wi-Fi, as well as free cell phone-charging. It is said to increase revenue for off-peak hours, known to improve repeat customer business and more importantly, gives a restaurant a competitive edge over the rest.
Sure, just like anything else, there is a downside to this – patrons occupy the tables longer and decreases table turnover, among many others. But the benefits surpass the drawbacks, for as long as restaurant operators know how to maximize the use of their Wi-Fi connections.
The question we need to ask now is this: are you taking full advantage of your free Wi-Fi service, or are you just giving it away?
First, let’s talk about your menu. The biggest value that Wi-Fi has to you is that it attracts customers during off-peak hours, so it is important that you have appealing menu items for off-peak times which will be offered to people who access your free internet. Think about your business travelers who drop in to check their emails in the morning with a cup of coffee and a few choices of croissants. Or those that come in mid-afternoon for dessert and cold beverages—do you have an interesting menu in stylish menu folders to accommodate this?
Second, take a look at the demographics of your current customer base, and the customer base that your want to attract. This is important so you can gauge if you need to put a price point at which you can give the password out for your customers to log-on. You can also consider changing the password daily or every other day so you can keep business flowing.
Third, if you think that the demographics of the customers that you want to attract do not make it possible to set a price point; you can still maximize the use of your free Wi-Fi. Although the customers are not willing to pay for the internet access (especially since there are already a lot who offer it as a free amenity), they are, however, willing to view some advertisements in exchange for that free connection. With the advent of search engines, email accounts and Facebook, a whole new generation has been conditioned and trained to expect some things for the freebies they get.
With that in mind, you can probably set-up your Wi-Fi network to a welcome screen that promotes your new menu items or your restaurant promotions and events, not just relaying everything on your menu or menu folders. Or you can have it set-up that customers will put in their email address that you can use for your direct-email marketing. Or your can redirect your customers to your Twitter page to encourage them to be a new follower and thus engage the guest well even after they leave your establishment.
Your customers will not mind any of this – they were conditioned to expect this! It’s simply a give and take relationship, quid pro quo – (Latin term for) “what for what,” or to put it simply, an equal exchange of goods or services. In this profoundly connected generation, your guests expect it – they know that there is really no such thing as free anything. So make it a win-win situation, and start setting up ways to make the best use of your free Wi-Fi and cell phone charging service.