29 June 2011
Getting a cable connection and sharing over wifi with your customers is a great way to not only have customers all day long but repeat customers. But the real reason why every pub and cafe should today install free wifi is because in a few years they won’t need it and they need to learn how to sell to the customers who can “work from anywhere”.
Tethering is awesome
With my Android I tether my MacbookPro over 3G. Most of the time the connection is crap and slow and I’m afraid of data usage but for the most part it gives me the freedom I want. 10 years from now I fully expect my MacbookPro Air (please?) to have a multi-mode network card that does wifi and Wimax or LTE (or something better). With a national subscription plan I could connect anywhere I want in a similar fashion to my iPhone. But we don’t even have to wait 10 years for the speed. 4G phones are here. Batteries and power consumption is getting better. On a single charge my MacbookPro can get 4 - 5 hours doing just software development. Being able to plug in is nice but becoming less necessary. (but still necessary today)
Pubs and cafes need to learn how to deal with remote workers
So now that the world is almost my office I will be able to pick and choose which pub or cafe I want to work at. I’ll no longer be limited to Starbucks and Panera bread. I’m going to choose the place that has the food I like, the beer I prefer or the working environment I’m most productive in. If pubs and cafes were smart they would learn how best to accomodate this class of worker today by providing free wifi. A small investment today would go a long way to getting ahead of everybody else tomorrow.
Panera Bread (I’m assuming most people are familiar) recently put restrictions on their free wifi. During peak hours it is limited. Someone might use this to claim that free wifi actually harms business. The reasoning is that most of the people there just hang out all day, some might actually bring their own food. Well, if you were in the desert wouldn’t you expect everybody to be hanging around the oasis? If there was more access at more locations everybody would be more spread out. Businesses should be competing for those potential customers not looking at them as moochers. Getting people to just walk through the door is difficult. Keeping them there for hours is impossible. The business that can figure out how best to sell to these remote workers is going to do very well in the years to come.