"At the Smoke Ring barbecue restaurant on Tamiami Trail in Port Charlotte, you can have a bite of brisket while you download megabytes of data. At the Stockyard Steakhouse down the street, you can eat steak tips while surfing for stock tips. The Internet access is courtesy of so-called "wi-fi hot spots." So far, early reaction from customers has been promising.
…Wendy Krause said they'll more than make up for the cost with patrons who pick their restaurant over non-providers.
"A guy came in yesterday who said he would be in every week just because we had the Internet," she said.
Here is an older, but more comprehensive NRN article about full-service restaurants offering Wi-Fi service.
"On the foodservice front, coffeehouses may have taken the lead in offering Wi-Fi, but operators ranging from quickservice to white-tablecloth are sitting up and taking notice. High-end steak houses, operations with banquet areas, fast casual units, cafes in business parks and restaurants tied to hotels all are prime candidates for Wi-Fi.
…For many operators, the hope of incremental sales was the carrot dangling on a wireless string. The hope was that customers would stay a little bit longer and order a little bit more. Others believed that customers would come in more often.
"The key benefit we have realized is helping our customers to get more things done during the day," says Schlotzsky's Nylund. "While the service does not necessarily attract new customers, it keeps existing customers in the restaurants longer." In addition, executives have pinpointed that guests return to the units during non-peak mealtimes for a dessert or a beverage break. "We are cultivating a habit for customers to come to Schlotzsky's as opposed to a competitor."
In most cases, incremental sales are furthest from an operator's mind when evaluating whether or not to offer Wi-Fi service to customers. At Tuscany in Wheeling, offering Wi-Fi as an amenity was the driving force behind providing the service for guests.
"We offer wireless access to our guests as an added incentive to dine with us, regardless of what work they might have to be doing," says Carolyn Pelissero, director of marketing for the 14-unit Chicago-based group. "It's great for power lunches or presentations that groups have, being productive outside the office and having access to email."
source: "Wi-Fi dilemma: pay to play or free for all?" by Mina Williams (Nation's Restaurant News, Nov.7,2005) (via Findarticles.com)
WaiterBell Angle: This was the latest, most comprehensive article I could find on wi-fi service in full service restaurants. Restaurants in this article provide internet access for a competitive edge. This is an interesting example of a technology that provides a competitive edge, yet does not necessarily have an easily quanitfiable return on investment. The ROI on wi-fi access is in customer satisfaction and repeat business.
WaiterBell is another example of a restaurant technology that provides ROI through customer satisfaction and repeat business. Similar to wi-fi access, WaiterBell distinguishes your restaurant from the competition.
WaiterBell also complements Wi-Fi restaurants because patrons using their computers may not wish to be disturbed. Your waitstaff can give them privacy knowing that the customer can use WaiterBell to signal for assistance. As a result, your waitstaff can be more efficient and the customer receives the right level of service. These are some of the benefits of WaiterBell and empowering the customer.