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wi-fi in cafes


glenn
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I plan to have wi-fi in my cafe. I was planning to allow free access until I got the particulars. Now I'm not sure. Does anyone use their laptop in an internet friendly cafe? If so, I'd love to get feedback. I knew nothing about this stuff until I recently looked into it. Now I know a step above nothing.

I'm almost for sure gonna get a secure connection, which costs about $500. That's not counting the set up fee and monthly connect fees. I'd prefer not to have to absorb the entire cost.

Okay, here goes... If you pay for the service in a cafe, do you think it's unfair that you're charged and/or do you think the proprietor is being a cheapskate? How much do you typically pay? In those places where it's free, is it a secure connection where you don't have to register or log in? In those places that have a secure connection, does it bother you to have to register and log in even if it's free? Any other comments/advice?

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In those places where it's free, is it a secure connection where you don't have to register or log in? In those places that have a secure connection, does it bother you to have to register and log in even if it's free?

glenn, can't speak to the cafe situation but in the library we work in we have free wifi access. it is a secure connection and we have no login. we do it as a service for our patrons. also remember that depending on your wifi network and where the boxes are placed it's possible for people NOT EVEN IN your building to access your network. we have one or two die hard patrons who sit in their cars outside the library when we are closed to use the network access.

i think places like mickey d's suck up the cost like we do - a draw/service.

good luck whatever you decide...

Nothing is better than frying in lard.

Nothing.  Do not quote me on this.

 

Linda Ellerbee

Take Big Bites

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Not answering your specific question, but one word, "TURNOVER"

Unless you've got a bunch of seats, come lunch or dinner time, you're not going to want tables tied up by folks on laptops sipping coffee.

To the question at hand, I'd charge a nominal fee, both because it will make up some for lost food sales and the cost of the service and because it will discourage those that will stretch a cup of coffee for two hours or more of free internet.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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Holly, I'd love NOT to have wi-fi for the reasons you mentioned. However, people have come to expect it and it's becoming more prevalent in my nabe. In any event, I don't mind people lingering during the day if I have no one waiting - it's good for business in that people passing by will see a busy place. But I'm not afraid to tell someone who's lingering when it's busy to take their laptop elsewhere :)).

Suzi, excuse me if this is a dumb question - how can you have a secure connection without requiring someone to register and log in? Otherwise, can't people spam (or worse) and not be held accountable?

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I would reccommend a non-secure connection. You will save some money, it will be easier on your patrons, and really, in a cafe, a secure connection is overkill. You will end up with random other people in the area leaching bandwidth perhaps, but if you limit the pipe size you can make sure they don't run up the bill that way.

As for charging: yes, I am drawn to places with wi-fi, but only if it is free. I am not going to pay for access somewhere when I could just as easily do whatever I need to do later on at home for free.

He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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Suzi, excuse me if this is a dumb question - how can you have a secure connection without requiring someone to register and log in?  Otherwise, can't people spam (or worse) and not be held accountable?

will ask my boss wednesday and get back to you....

edit to say i'm pretty sure they don't have to log in because otherwise i would be hounded by people asking for the password(they do this just to sign on to our 9 terminals though the instructions are right above the screen) and pretty sure it is secure since we run a lot of things off the network. course i'm the semi-luddite of the department so......it's possible i'm wrong.

Edited by Holly Moore (log)

Nothing is better than frying in lard.

Nothing.  Do not quote me on this.

 

Linda Ellerbee

Take Big Bites

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I would reccommend a non-secure connection.  You will save some money, it will be easier on your patrons, and really, in a cafe, a secure connection is overkill.  You will end up with random other people in the area leaching bandwidth perhaps, but if you limit the pipe size you can make sure they don't run up the bill that way.

Maybe I bought a load of bulloney, but the rationale for a secure connection as explained to me was to prevent spammers and other malicious conduct from my connection. I don't care if anyone leaches. I tend to agree with you about not charging and will almost certainly start off free and play it by ear.

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Hi Glenn -

I had an ISP client a few years back that was getting into wi-fi installations of your type. (I'm in PR/Marketing). If I recall, most of the research at the time showed that consumers wanted to use it and would frequent places more often that had it but didn't want to pay for it. Many hotels offer wi-fi now for free as a value add incentive for staying at their property versus another that either doesn't offer it or charges for it. Same with some cafes.

That said, I haven't looked at what the research is saying now but you might look out on Gartner or Forrester research websites to see if they have any free old research available on the subject. (They charge healthy prices for their current research).

My guess is that to a certain degree as wi-fi has become more widely adopted, this is changing. For example, T-Mobile's alliance with Starbucks. You can sign up for a "free" day of wi-fi while visiting a starbucks but you have to enter all of your credit card info and unless you go through the pain in the fanny process of canceling, it automatically converts to a monthly account which is in the $30 something range. They also offer one time day passes for about $9.99 with no strings attached - that has worked well for me a couple of times on business trips to NYC when I had down time between meetings and wanted to get other work done. You might want to go buy a day pass at Starbucks to have a consumer experience for yourself.

If you really want to charge, you will likely have to offer it for free for a while to build a loyal following and then you will have a couple of options if you dont feel like it's paying for itself in new or more business. You may want to offer "x" amount of time for free for folks who purchase within a certain range and then offer prepaid cards that they can purchase for additional time above and beyond the free time.

Most ISP's in the wi-fi space can provide you with more detailed information on how to monetize this if it's something you want to learn more about. You should ask the salesperson that you're dealing with to go do the legwork if they really want your business.

Hope this helps! :smile:

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I will not use Wi-Fi at Starbucks or Tully's or any other place that charges a fee because there are too many places that offer free connections. I am much more likely to go to an independent coffee house or diner that offers free WiFi, and will spend money on food and drink while I'm there, if for no other reason, to ease my concience.

"Homer, he's out of control. He gave me a bad review. So my friend put a horse head on the bed. He ate the head and gave it a bad review! True Story." Luigi, The Simpsons

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Only time I ever used it was in a upscale quaint Hotel. GF had a business trip and I tagged along. Check out monday is 11 am. Her meeting ends at 1 pm , I sit in the lobby for 3 hours. Got 2 bars upstairs till 11 then went down stairs and had a T1 line speed. Never opened my book. Front deck came by and asked me about the service etc. Saw me watching a short movie and suddenly realized that the Hotel had a network that anybody could access. Not an advertised perk. Hope they keep it.

Bruce Frigard

Quality control Taster, Château D'Eau Winery

"Free time is the engine of ingenuity, creativity and innovation"

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

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As I mentioned in the Panera thread, I go there all the time just for their free WiFi, and I always eat/drink when I'm there.

I seem to recall reading that WiFi is moving from a retail to a wholesale model, with restaurants and other establishments offering it as a value-add. I personally find the fact that Starbuck's charges to be obnoxious and offensive.

Danielle Altshuler Wiley

a.k.a. Foodmomiac

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Doesn't it depend on where you are? In Urbana-Champaign, they are all free. They have enough space for all the lingerers. But in Chicago, where space was harder to come by, most places seemed to charge. Maybe tour a few cafes in your neighborhood and see what they are doing.

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I think some of the more educated techies 'round here should sound off, but to me the concept of a secure, multiparty wireless network is farcical. If someone is dumb enough to check their bank account on wifi (yours or anyone elses) they deserve what is coming to them.

My favorite local java hole has an unsecured wi fi, but also a public-access terminal, for those who don't have computers (both free). People will come and buy coffee to use their laptops, but people will come and buy coffee to use the computer too (cuz they probably don't have one at home). One could conceivably run the whole network through that terminal, which might offer cheaper and more effective ways to secure the network from spammers.

"The Internet is just a world passing around notes in a classroom."

---John Stewart

my blog

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I will not use Wi-Fi at Starbucks or Tully's or any other place that charges a fee because there are too many places that offer free connections.  I am much more likely to go to an independent coffee house or diner that offers free WiFi, and will spend money on food and drink while I'm there, if for no other reason, to ease my concience.

I agree. For me, there's no reason to use Starbucks Wi-fi when there's enough other places that offer free Wi-fi.

I also tend to buy something whenever I go into a place where I might linger.

My view is, I'm occupying their space, which costs them money. I should buy something. I do tend to go for the cheapest thing I can buy, unless I want something specific.

I also think most places can't make enough of a business of it to charge for it,

except for Starbucks, because of the particular breed of people it attracts and their relaitvely loyalty.

Now if your intent (as I suspect) to charge for Wi-fi is not as much to actually make money from it as to offset your costs, that may be doable.

But I don't think the numbers will be there, and you may lose customers perception-wise.

Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

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Around here (near a grad and law school that have free wireless to students) the cafes have free wireless, non secured.) I wouldn't even think of paying for wireless. Heck, some examples, all walking distance for places near me with free wireless:

the apple store

the cigar connection

murky coffee (which is huge and the only one fo these I use)

el mexicano (which is always empty)

-Jason

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So what about Hollys turnover concept?

I'm considering this idea - people follow the rules here without question... But to get regulars during slow times, i.e. If someone said free wifi with afternoon tea order (snacks, big pot of organic tea or infusions- €8, something like that), to get people (students) to park, you know, keep up the ambiance, become known as the place where you can find what's-his-name, a meeting place... What kind of scenarios might I end up with? (this is a rhetorical question, my hobby's writing up fanciful business plans in French, and figuring out how to do something like this without putting my home in jeopardy) :smile:

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Thanks for all the input. Not having a laptop and not being a big cafe patron, I had no idea what the story was. You've enlightened me. And thanks to Cucina for the great marketing ideas.

As a result, there's no question in my mind that I have to offer free wifi. And see what happens. I also checked with a few local places and they o9ffer it free without a secure connection. I'm not sure if I made it clear, but my intent was never to make wifi a profit center - my concerns were the expense and the ones Holly clearly stated.

I'm still left with the issue of whether to go with a secure connection or not. My concern has to do with liability. I don't wanna get sent up the river cuz a friggin' spammer, or worse - mother raper, father stabber or father raper got their jollies off on my connection.

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I am not positive about the laws relating to this stuff, but I am fairly sure that the provider of the connection (ISP, which I am assuming you would be thrown into the role of here) is not responsible for things unknown to him going on on his network, i.e., if someone spams from your domain or uses an IP from your network to conduct unsavory business, I don't think that it can fall back on you, you just need to be able to provide records if the police want to get involved in an investigation, however, I am not an expert in this field.

I think it is also possible with some router software/firmware to bandwidth limit individual connections, such that you would give everyone enough flow to surf the web, do basic e-mail, etc, but not to start massive spamming campaigns.

He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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How/who/what is securing your connection? I don't understand where the expence is coming in... granted I've been a sysadmin for several years before changing jobs.

If there is a reasonable university in your town, or a Linux Users Group, I would suggest making contact with them and soliciting their help for 2 reasons: they will be a group that will like to use your access, and they have the technical expertise to help you set it up on the cheap and reliably.

If you want some advice for contacting or questions to ask, pm me.

-j

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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since you're in jersey city, you should contact nycwireless.net. they're a grassroots organization that is wants to set up free wifi all over the city. they have a lot of information and can probably help you. they also hold a monthly meeting downtown. good luck.

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Unfortunately I don't have the stats to back this up, but I've heard that many of the places that are offering free wifi are doing so because its EASIER. That stat that I heard was that the overall cost of having free wifi is just a few pennies more per hour than actually charging for it.

Why? Well, if people pay for a service, they expect support. So you have to have someone handy to troubleshoot their connection, deal with billing issues, etc etc. When its free.... well, from the wifi user's perspective, there is much less expectation. The connection will probably work fine, but hey, if it doesn't.... no biggie since they aren't paying for it anyway.

So many places are not going to free wifi out of the goodness of their hearts; really its that it is far less of a headache to administer that way. And not that that isn't a good thing - it usually works out quite well for both sides.

Viva la wifi! :-)

Andrea

http://tenacity.net

"You can't taste the beauty and energy of the Earth in a Twinkie." - Astrid Alauda

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Food Lovers' Guide to Santa Fe, Albuquerque & Taos: OMG I wrote a book. Woo!

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Au Coquelet Cafe in Berkeley, which does a lot of business with students, told us that they wouldn't put in wifi because then it would encourage the kids to sit around there all day.

But my favorite cafe in Irvine, CA has free wifi and it definitely keeps my SO occupied while I study and eat. The place is not busy enough yet where I'm taking up a prospective patron's seat.

I love cold Dinty Moore beef stew. It is like dog food! And I am like a dog.

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Okay, here goes...  If you pay for the service in a cafe, do you think it's unfair that you're charged and/or do you think the proprietor is being a cheapskate?  How much do you typically pay?  In those places where it's free, is it a secure connection where you don't have to register or log in?  In those places that have a secure connection, does it bother you to have to register and log in even if it's free?  Any other comments/advice?

As a person who avoids coffee shops that DON'T have wi-fi and often uses the coffee shop as a home-office (because I can't actually get any work DONE in my home office) I'll chime in. Obviously free is preferable, if I don't have to pay, I'm happier. But I also know that there's no such thing as a free lunch and you're probably getting my internet connection out of me via increased cost of my java. Having said that, I WOULD pay a nominal FLAT fee, say $2 to use it all day (or as long as I'm there). I WILL NOT pay usage fees or hourly fees because I don't know how much of it I'll use. As said above, whether customers will pay depends largely on geography; in Chicago I don't pay because I don't have to; in the burbs, I would pay because otherwise I can't get online.

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Glenn,

Do you see your venture more as a restaurant where the purpose is to sell mass quantities of grilled cheese sandwiches or a cafe / coffee house where the goal is a relaxed ambience and the food is incidental to the experience?

If the former, reconsider free internet, at least during meal times.

As laptops have proliferated, and being as hooked on triple lattes as I am, I am finding more and more occasions where no seats are available at my favorite coffee house because people are nursing their drinks and typing. Sometimes they have finished nursing their coffee and are sitting there with empty cup busily surfing about.

Just got back from DC where there was a Starbucks a block from my hotel. Went in there in the morning - a lot of laptop users and no empty tables. Returned mid afternoon, the same and a couple of the same laptop users.

I'd have to see hard numbers to believe that free internet pays for itself in increased sales - Especially in a food service establishment.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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You can sort of have it both ways: Have your WEP passphrase be posted somewhere inside your cafe, then crank down AP broadcast power so the signal is undetectable outside the building. On some other level, you can change the password periodically, and have your POS system print it as a field on their reciept.

Matt Robinson

Prep for dinner service, prep for life! A Blog

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