WiFi and the pay toilet

by Rob Flickenger

Here's an interesting article from Computerworld talking about the success of Schlotzsky's free wi-fi service. For an outlay of $8000 per store, they are seeing roughly $100,000 in increased sales per year in each of their 30 stores which offer free hotspots.

But Schlotzky's isn't the only free wireless successs story. Ron Shaich, chairman and CEO of Panera Bread, sees free wi-fi as something that customers should expect as a courtesy, as it is very inexpensive to operate and entices customers not only to stay, but to come back.

Here's a choice quote:

In fact, Shaich considers free Wi-Fi to be such an essential marketing tool that he dismisses any discussion of ROI. "What is the ROI on a bathroom?" asked Shaich, pointing out that the day of pay restrooms in restaurants has long since passed.

When considering for-pay and for-free hotspots (as well as truly free network projects), I can certainly see the value in one free resource that makes all of these valuable propositions possible: public spectrum. None of these communication services would be possible without license-free portions of the public airwaves (FCC Part 15 here in the U.S.) Tell your government how important free access to the public airwaves is to your business and community!

Is free wireless access to the Internet a valuable resource, or a waste of spectrum?


2003-10-23 12:36:56
Toilets and the Internet
I wonder what the yearly cost of a public restroom is vs. that of wireless. 8K per year ($20/day) seems like a bit much, but it's probably not too far off.

And really, what better place is there to use your laptop than when you have a lap?

2003-10-23 14:50:59
Free Wi-Fi

I have been telling everyone who would listen (and many who wouldn't) that pay Wi-fi is doomed. The business model of T-Mobile, Hotspotzz etc are incredibly stupid. Who would pay another $30-$50 a month in addition to their DSL bills just so they can surf the web at Starbucks? And even worse, after paying that amount, you only get access at locations with Wi-fi operated by the service you subscribed to.

Wi-fi is incredibly cheap to operate. This is especially true when you're giving it away free - since it's free, you need only provide minimal support.

I am betting T-Mobile's subscription Wi-fi will die within 12 months. I can't believe how stupid those executives at T-Mobile are.