Panera Bread tries to manage free Wi-Fi clogs

(Special)

(Special)

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.

4 comments Add your comment

melaoc

May 17th, 2012
9:23 pm

they need to speed up the wifi at panera—it’s how to download stuff when it’s so slow.

say what

May 17th, 2012
9:49 pm

What a bunch of losers. Free Wifi to the loafers. People, buy your own !!!!!

ABBYSENIA

May 18th, 2012
1:12 am

As much as they charge for their food…it’s not freeloading! They need to keep it free and just have more space available. It’s not uncommon for me to spend more than $15 at Panera for Lunch!(If I get a combo and drink and pastry). It’s healthier…but still if they want to compete with places like Moe’s and McDonald’s which also offere free wifi…well they have to COMPETE! The loyalty idea isn’t a good idea… It may drive people away! If you want to eat there today…but need to use the ‘net…but only eat there occasionally…well they may loose your business to one of the places that doesn’t do this! One idea…may be to have a LIMIT… 1-2HRS(which I don’t really like…but is a fair solution).

Dan

May 19th, 2012
7:25 pm

The problem is not the free wi-fi, but the jerks that set up their office in a booth, drank coffee and eat a sandwich all day, not allowing others even a place to sit. I watch one group of 8 running a MLM scam, making cold calls right in the restaurant. Time limits would be a good thing…