It’s no secret that there’s some stiff competition in the restaurant world, with quick service, fast casual and casual dining establishments each vying for consumer’s attention and business. A recent change that has been steadily gaining momentum in the industry is the availability of guest WiFi in restaurants. Not only is it becoming a determinant for customer attention, but according to an article on the subject from FastCasual.com, “providing guest WiFi represents a strategic opportunity to differentiate the customer experience and drive sales.”
A 2014 study commissioned by Devisescape found that small businesses offering WiFi to customers saw increases in foot traffic, the length of time customers stayed on premises and the amount of money they spent. To harness these benefits and execute implementations in the most efficient manner, restaurateurs must “future proof” their deployments and ensure that they’re using state of the art technology.
Here’s a look at four benefits of integrating WiFi and some tips on how to do so seamlessly.
1. The Importance of Infrastructure
It’s Sunday afternoon and groups of college students, business professionals and a handful of aspiring screenwriters are packed into your restaurant, trying to get some work done before the week begins. During peak hours, when large numbers of guests are utilizing the WiFi, the connection is likely to become congested due to the lack of equipment capacity, causing slow speeds and customer frustration.
To solve this issue, restaurants are recognizing the need to deploy high-speed Internet access with higher performance connections, such as 10+ Mbps or 50+Mbps. Restaurants can also utilize WAN optimization technology, which works by converting low speeds into high performance connections. This is a strategic management tactic that will result in maximum business value and happier customers.
2. Filtering Content is key
One of the most important elements of WiFi implementation is protecting your brand. If a proper, robust Domain Name Servers (DNS) filter isn’t in place, customers could access inappropriate or illegal content. To keep this from happening, restaurants need to make sure they have solid web content filtering services in place to avoid liabilities and protect their reputation. With the immediate impact that online posts can have on a business, this is by far one of the most vital elements across all restaurant sectors. It also lessens the perceived risk that guests often associate with using public WiFi networks.
3. Data Analytics and Customer Insights
Restaurants also have the ability to utilize their WiFi network as an analytics platform. Not all restaurant marketers will choose to do this, but it can be a powerful tool to glean information and metrics about customer dwell time and repeat visitors. A restaurant can use WiFi as an enabler for its mobile engagement strategy, such as apps that can be downloaded for use in-shop. The WiFi can help the restaurant understand who the customer is and what their preferences are, how many new customers a certain advertisement brought in, which day of the week needs a promotion to drive sales, etc.
Devon Wright, the co-founder of a company that provides customer analytics and location-based marketing solutions for brick-and-mortar retail stores, Turnstyle Solutions, said in a recent Inc. article, “a mall can use WiFi to track the flow of traffic throughout its premises in order to identify bottlenecks, premium real estate locations, or high-density areas for advertising opportunities. Restaurants can use guest sign-on information to create targeted marketing lists, and retailers can push time-sensitive coupons to shoppers logged on to their networks.”
4. Elevating Branding
WiFi also offers restaurants and small businesses significant branding opportunities. One of the biggest and easiest ways to do this is by using the company name as the network’s Service Set Identifier (SSID), which is the public name of the wireless network. Many restaurants have implemented captive portal pages that requires guests to sign on and agree to terms of service, which opens up a plethora of opportunities to market directly to customers via promotions, advertising, or other special offers.
Amy Abatangle, executive vice president and general manager of gateway products at Untangle, Inc., suggests “They can also require users to do other things to gain internet access, such as watch a promotional video or click to dismiss a window with a coupon code for products or services.”
Many restaurant brands have already implemented WiFi in their business, and many are beginning to embrace it due to its ease of deployment and the fact that it is increasingly becoming an expectation by consumers. Further, it represents a strategic opportunity for restaurateurs to improve the customer experience, which leads to improved business results. Considering the competitive market and the customer’s ever evolving preferences, it is vital for businesses to give serious thought towards “future proofing” their WiFi deployments in order to accommodate these priorities and drive profits.
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Jason Barge is a marketing manager at LRS and an expert in communications for the hospitality industry.