We’ve all been there. A restaurant may advertise free guest Wi-Fi, but if you sit at a corner table or enjoy the patio, that Wi-Fi just won’t reach you. And this isn’t the only way guest Wi-Fi can fail in a restaurant.
If you manage a restaurant, you’ve seen just how much people use their phones, even when eating and drinking. Helping customers get online is not just good hospitality – it’s good business. But if you don’t set up guest Wi-Fi correctly, you fail on both counts.
Here are just some ways a restaurant can fail their setup before they get a chance to hang a Wi-Fi sign in the window – and ways to ensure your eatery’s guest Wi-Fi helps you succeed.
Underestimate the number of Wi-Fi access points you need
Remember that anecdote about not reaching Wi-Fi? That can happen to your customers for reasons like the following:
- You might have too few access points (APs) for the size of your space
- Obstacles between APs may prevent clean signals
- You aren’t using mesh technology, in which APs relay device communications from other APs as needed (this means the network offers more than one path from a connected device to the Internet, which makes mesh networks a reliable strategy for eliminating Wi-Fi “dead zones” in your restaurant)
There’s no cookie-cutter solution for every restaurant, so have your needs evaluated by a professional firm that can help you ensure total Wi-Fi coverage.
Keep the Wi-Fi network public
Running an unsecured network is not a good idea. Malicious users may try to damage devices using your network – either those of your restaurant or your customers. The security risk just simply isn’t worth it.
Neither is having a password-secured network, forcing customers to ask your employees for the network password all day long. In either scenario, users may overload the network using bandwidth-heavy activity like streaming video or downloading large files.
Instead, have customers handle their own secure access by using a captive portal.
A captive portal is the first thing customers see when they connect to your guest Wi-Fi network, often called a splash page. It usually asks for a name and email address (or social media account info) in exchange for guest Wi-Fi access. The customer device is now identifiable, and the customer, conveniently, doesn’t need to sign in again during the next visit.
Neglect marketing possibilities
When customers connect to a restaurant network that does not welcome them using a captive portal, the restaurant owner knows nothing about that person beyond the device MAC address.
Ah, but we’ve already spoken about captive portals and the splash pages they can manage. Guests can enter contact information – email addresses, social network IDs – on those pages, and that information lets you create automated marketing opportunities.
- Have the captive portal send the diner’s contact information to the restaurant’s CRM, mailing list software, or any other system that would benefit from a cache of customer information
- Have marketing software send clients notifications and promotions
- Invite customers to opt in for information on special events and offers
- Invite customers to join your social network groups
Once a restaurant knows its customers, the marketing possibilities are limited only by the restaurateur’s imagination (and applicable laws, of course)
Don’t interact with customers
A plain-Jane guest Wi-Fi network enables customers to connect to all sorts of people - except the people working behind the counter, in this situation, the restaurant can’t build relationships with its patrons.
That can be fixed. The splash page in a captive portal can give customers opportunities to connect and interact with the restaurant. That interaction can drive repeat business, so consider tactics like the following:
- We mentioned this above, but it’s worth repeating – invite customers to follow restaurant social media accounts like Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest.
- Invite patrons to play trivia and other games where they interact with each other
Tell customers about these benefits, and not just on the captive portal splash page
- Advertise them in your menus
- Print them on receipts
- Put them on the walls, your advertising, anywhere customers are likely to look
Set it up yourself
Home network equipment from your local electronics outlet is simple enough to set up. However, guest Wi-Fi costs go well beyond acquisition and installation. Consider lifecycle costs like:
- regular upgrades
Then, of course, there are all the Wi-Fi based business improvement possibilities mentioned throughout this post. Are you ready to handle all this work? Do you have what it takes to automate any of this, to lower your guest Wi-Fi total cost of ownership while having it improve revenues?
Do you have the know-how to set up, maintain and monetize a guest Wi-Fi network? If you don’t, that network becomes, at best, a cost center instead of a marketing tool. At worst, it’s a security threat to both your business and your customers.