11:40 am May 17, 2012, by Christopher Seward
How important is free Wi-Fi in attracting and keeping restaurant patrons?
So important that Panera Bread, one of the first to offer free wireless Internet access to customers with laptops and smartphones, is trying to come up with more strategies to keep its Wi-Fi hungry customers happy, according to a USA Today report.
Panera Bread customers sometimes experience slowdowns in Internet speed because the system is so clogged with users, the report says. The restaurant chain has more than 30 locations in Georgia, the majority in metro Atlanta.
Monthly connections to Panera’s wireless network grew to 2.7 million sessions in April from 2.2 million a year ago, according to the report. Some locations have had to limit Wi-Fi access during high-traffic lunch hours.
As a result, Panera’s vice president of technology, Blaine Hurst, told USA Today the chain is trying to come up with ideas to keep customers happy. One idea the chain is considering is rewarding loyal Panera customers with unrestricted access.
Panera, however, isn’t the only one trying to boost traffic with free Wi-Fi, realizing that more people are seeking the free networks as data plan restrictions increase. There are more than 65,000 free Wi-Fi spots across the nation – and hundreds in metro Atlanta, according to OpenWiFiSpots.com and Wififreespot.com.
Starbucks accounts just over a third of the free networks – 23,000. The most popular locations are coffee shops, cafes, and hotels. Visit Wififreespot.com for a listing of free hotspots in metro Atlanta and other parts of Georgia.
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