I just read the Chicago Tribune article Coffee shops take different approaches with laptop squatters and it raised some interesting points and got me thinking. Does it makes sense for the business to offer free wifi and power to all of their customers? Not too long ago many coffee shops charged for wifi access, and now the pendulum has swung toward free wifi and an abundance of power outlets. More and more people are not tethered to the office and will work anywhere they can. But what are the consequences?
In concept having wifi access will get people to sit at the tables, but is that ultimately keeping another crowd of paying customers away? My take is “yes” in many cases. I often hear from people that they will stop at the closest place and grab a wifi connection to get some work done in between meetings. They almost always buy a cup of coffee, but in a rush why not sit in the parking lot and do some work in the car since there is no cost or barriers? I have been to Panera Bread many times when all of the tables are full during the lunch rush hour with a third of the tables were people camping for the day. So Panera Bread, is it worth it?
If I ran a coffee shop, I would create a rewards system where regular customers could take advantage of perks like wifi and discounts using some kind of loyalty card (think Starbuck’s). Only a slight inconvenience with the upside of getting free coffee and such. Of course there are a host of other things to worry about for this, but I have not written my business plan for opening a coffee shop yet to cover them all. : )
Love to hear other opinions on this topic. What do you think?