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What happens when a coffee shop gets too popular?

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I ran into an interesting situation last weekend and I’m curious to know what you think. Budding entrepreneurs, here’s your chance to come up with a brilliant solution to a business problem.

First of all, if you disregard my 8 Stupid Frat-Boy Business Ideas post and start a coffee shop, you may one day encounter this problem. It’s a good problem to have, but a problem nonetheless.

Last weekend, I was writing at a coffee shop where lots of people bring their laptops for the free wifi and food.

As I was writing, one one of the staff began telling people with laptops that the wifi would be turned off from 11:30am – 1:00pm. “Why?” one woman asked.

The poor waiter. He explained that the manager had instituted a new policy of turning off the Internet during peak hours. I’m pretty sure this is to dissuade people from camping out for hours at their tables with laptops. I’ve personally seen people come in, look around, and leave because there were no tables available. (In fact, this happened to me the very next day.)

The woman was furious. “I wouldn’t have come here and bought all this food if I knew I couldn’t get my work done,” she said angrily. All the waiter could do was apologize.

I see both sides of this decision.

Clearly, the manager wants to maximize revenues and doesn’t want to turn away potential customers (with $) because all the tables are full of laptop users who won’t get up (or buy anything). They’re worried, in other words, about turnover, one of the reasons that even popular restaurants can go bankrupt. Like I said, I’ve personally seem them lose revenues when prospective customers left because there were no tables left. If you measure success on a $/minute metric per table, the laptop users are probably very low-value customers.

On the other hand, the customers who bring their laptops in are loyal customers who, I’m sure, tell their friends about this coffee shop. This new policy squarely affects these loyal customers. Worst of all, there’s no way to announce this policy without sounding like a real asshole. For example, I saw a guy with a laptop come in 11:20am. What happens when the Internet goes down 10 minutes after he sits down? What are you going to say? Is the management going to put out flyers on all the tables saying, “There will be no Internet from 11:30am – 1:00pm” (because we want you to leave)?

Here are some possible solutions:

  • Continue allowing free access with no time limits. This maintains goodwill but you’ll probably bleed dry
  • Charge for Internet access (Starbucks does this)
  • Create a points system that gives people a variable amount of Internet access based on how much they’ve bought (“3 coffees = free week of Internet,” etc). My friend Chris Yeh came up with this one. As he said, “If you’re going to screw people, at least give them the impression there’s some way for them to avoid the shaft.” (Check out his brilliant blog)

What would you do?

[Update]: I told the coffee shop’s manager about this post and sent her a link. She responded by email: “Thank you so much for the link, and the feedback. It is a difficult balance to wanting to please the paying customer and the loyal regulars. I forwarded your blog to the owner, XXXXXX, in hopes that we can come up with a solution that everyone is happy with. I really appreciate you taking an interest, and enjoy talking to you on the weekends!”

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68 Comments on "What happens when a coffee shop gets too popular?"

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Willy
8 years 7 months ago
I think charging for wifi may have severe unintended consequences. Unless the cafe is making big bucks by charging for wifi, people who pay will be entitled to sit in the cafe all day long and not buy anything. It’s like the Freakonomics story about the day care center that started charging parents who were late to pick up their kids – more parents were late! The points system could work, but it would be hard to administer. What about having a set number of laptop tables during the mid-day rush? Say only half of the tables in the cafe… Read more »
Jonathan S.
8 years 7 months ago
There is an easy solution to this, while perhaps somewhat inconvenient. I’ve implemented this system in a couple coffee shops before. I install a hardware solution that controls access to the shop’s wireless network. To get access to the network you have to get a code from a waiter/server/clerk. These codes are unique per customer and can optionally have a time limit attached to them. The system I’ve put in place before does require some sort of purchase every hour (time period is determined by shop management). So when a laptop user’s time runs out, they simply purchase more food… Read more »
P6S
P6S
8 years 7 months ago

Charging for internet (maybe scale it up during peak hours) makes a lot more sense than turning it off completely.

Joey
8 years 7 months ago

Argo Tea already has a system similar to your third suggestion. When you purchase something, you get a piece of paper with a password on it. You use this password to access their wifi network, and after (I believe) an hour, the password expires. If you want to stay online, you have to keep chugging tea.

Richard
8 years 7 months ago

Personally, I’d segment laptop users to a specifc section of the cafe during peak times allowing non-laptop users to sit and inform the customers of this policy. I know space if cafe’s is at a premium, but in order to please both sides without having to resort to gimmicky marketing campaigns I think this could work better.

Graham
8 years 7 months ago

Possibly you could configure the WiFi so that the users must log in to use it. Use dynamically-generated usernames that only allow one concurrent connection and expire after a day.

Hand these out to people as requested. Don’t hand out any starting at, say, 11:00am. Hopefully there would only be a small number of people in the place at that time (before the lunch rush).

Anne
Anne
8 years 7 months ago
When I lived in Paris, many cafes offered free internet access. They would give you a card with an access code that was worth a certain amount of time, maybe 30 minutes. After that, you had to go ask for another. They didn’t charge for the later cards, but it was enough of a pain that it would keep me from staying overlong. I think a better way to do it would be the last suggestion: for every $3 spent, you get 30 min of internet or similar. That would keep customers going back to the counter for another coffee… Read more »
Amanda B.
Amanda B.
8 years 7 months ago

I’d put a code on the receipts that is good for one hour (or two hours, or whatever) of internet access. They you assure that the people who are there for a long time are periodically getting up and buying something and the person who is there a short time, gets the access he wants.

Amanda

John Knox
8 years 7 months ago
Good puzzle. I call one idea the freeloader light. Each table would have a prominent red light mounted in the center. When a customer places or receives an order, the server presses a button for the corresponding table. The light turns off. Exactly one hour later, the light switches on automatically, blinding the occupant while shaming them for not buying more treats during that hour. The light could optionally spell out an insulting message. My other idea I call table bidding. In table bidding, any table that has been occupied for more than 30 minutes without an order is up… Read more »
Hilary
Hilary
8 years 7 months ago
Panera has a different approach than all three you mention (and it’s one that I like and seems to work pretty well for them): – when you sit down to get online you are redirected to a Panera page before you can access the internet. It has a link to all of the legal jargon BUT right there in front of you it will say something like (this is not word for word – they actually have it worded really well) “Please sit at the smaller tables if possible so larger parties will be able to utilize booths. Also please… Read more »
Matt
Matt
8 years 7 months ago

You could have a designated section for users with laptops. That way you could manage how many users were “camping” out in the coffee shop. This would allow the loyal, laptop using customers to have a place, and also provide an area for the casual, “not going to stay there for hours” customers.

Christine
Christine
8 years 7 months ago

Build an coffee bar with high stools, disconnect the wi-fi, and have cables coming out of each “station”. So that way the laptop-folks aren’t taking up an entire table for their work (which could accommodate two or three people), but they still have a place to chill out and suck down coffee at. Plus, it would provide a closer relationship with their “bartender-barista”, building goodwill and hopefully selling more coffee.

Will
Will
8 years 7 months ago

– limit the bandwidth so that it’s slow enough when the coffee shop gets crowded (there are technical limitations to this – what if, for instance, a customer watch youtube video which is a huge bandwith eater)
– implement a shiny electronic board that will display for each table how long the internet has been running….

Lee
8 years 7 months ago
Have the staff/waiters come around and ask them if they want anything else, on a regular basis. This will help shame them into buying more, and they won’t have to leave their laptop unattended to order more. Set it up so the page that you get when you first connect to the wifi lets you order drinks and food without getting up. This could be set up so after a set period of time, access is blocked and that page comes up again, and if you order something else, the internet starts working again. Get smaller tables to fit more… Read more »
Adam
Adam
8 years 7 months ago
The first thing I would do is setup a captive portal system so that I would have the tools to monitor the situation and enforce any policy there after. Having the proper capabilities will offer give a greater amount of flexibility in your policies. Some ideas might be: limit the maximum number of concurrent connections so that you can guarantee there is more available seats than laptop users (unless of course one person brings six laptops), enforce bandwidth policies to discourage people from camping out for bittorrent purposes (I consult with an ISP and we can tell from graphs that… Read more »
mitchell
8 years 7 months ago

simple — use a router that can limit bandwidth, and do it. make the free wifi useful for customers, but not that productive for people who are camping out for hours trying to get lots of work done.

freecia
8 years 7 months ago
I like the time allotment idea. You could also throttle the bandwidth in general. People will come in to get their work done but if they need a lot of bandwidth, will get frustrated and leave. A cafe isn’t an ISP, after all, and they shouldn’t have to provide enough bandwidth to watch streaming tv shows. Another idea is to limit the number of power outlets Re-arrange the seating and furniture so unused power outlets are stopped up. Let’s see how long people can use their notebooks without a constant power feed… Subtle, but effective. I know I’ve left because… Read more »
EJ
EJ
8 years 7 months ago

The best local coffee shop near me (Chocolate Cafe) is located within a mile or two of Emory University. Which is to say, there are a LOT of laptop users vying for their free wifi and tables. When you order a drink, they ask if you’d like 1, 2, or 3 hours of wifi, and you get a corresponding code that gets you hooked up, as some other commenters have mentioned.

I’m not a cafe-laptop type, but 1-3 hours seems plenty generous. When I’ve stopped by for the best chai in town, I’ve never heard anybody grousing about the limits.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years 7 months ago
South Beach Cafe in SoMa has this policy, but they have very limited amounts of space, and mostly larger tables. It sounds like this is an issue of cafe real estate. If there are too many larger tables, and not enough smaller tables, than wi-fi users will be inclined to use up more real estate and dissuade other customers from sitting, buying, and enjoying the cafe. Since wi-fi tends to be more of an isolating activity, the cafes that offer plenty of single space seating usually can accommodate both types of customers with ease. Proper signage like: “Free wi-fi at… Read more »
Jill Murray
8 years 7 months ago

At the Bridgehead cafes in Ottawa, they print a passcode on every receipt that’s good for about an hour or so of wifi. You can still sit there all day, as long as you keep refreshing your beverage. Its pretty simple, and it works. There are enough other benefits to being there that the hassle is an acceptable compromise.

hernameisaphrodite
hernameisaphrodite
8 years 7 months ago

I think I would do this: build another coffee shop a block away. Repeat 10,000 times.

I actually really like the points system; I think that’s pretty clever.

Enrique
Enrique
8 years 7 months ago

I guess from a customer point of view if the owner would just tell the truth and tell everyone that there will limit on using the internet because there are too many people coming at a certain time would do the enough.

Cyn94601
8 years 7 months ago
I think paying for internet access is the best answer but could be hard to implement after free access has been given. It could be worth the effort if the business finds it has tables filled by a single group in the time that normally could have serviced 3 or more groups. One trade off could be pay for internet but provide free or discounted coffee – not lattes or fancy coffees but brewed coffee. Another option is designating areas for surfing – similar to smoking/non smoking sections. Again not totally ideal but what if you had a section that… Read more »
Justin Burdett
8 years 7 months ago
Without knowing a ton about the exact cafe in question, I think I would attack the problem in a couple different directions: – First, I would take a look at my cafe’s layout. Can we optimize the space better than we are already? Are heavy Internet users taking up large tables because there’s no small tables left or simply because there’s more room to work? Are there open small tables, but no larger tables for the groups to sit? Can we add a more smaller tables to open up a few larger tables? Based on the description, it sounds like… Read more »
escapee
8 years 7 months ago

I’d designate a few tables to be used for people with laptops, and the rest of the tables would be designated laptop free during peak hours.

You could adjust table usage accordingly to allow for more or less laptop usage.

steve
steve
8 years 7 months ago
Charging for wifi creates the problem that people will not linger, which could lead to an extra round of coffee or two, and it could drive away customers and, as you said, the profits in it probably aren’t that high. The taking away wifi approach during lunch is probably also a bad idea, because it’s equivalent to making the wifi prohibitively expensive. Starbucks pulls it off because they’re Starbucks and in part people are paying for the name. A Points system is just a logistical nightmare. Shaming customers is a terrible customer relations decision, so I’d be inclined to just… Read more »
Andreas
Andreas
8 years 7 months ago
I would try something similar to the points system, a sort of reciprocal credit system: I charge, say, $10 for all day wifi access. When you pay, i give you back a $10 gift card for my coffee shop. You can immediately use it to buy yourself coffee, snacks, etc. Or you can keep it and spend it tomorrow. You can even give it to a friend, who might then become a new customer. (I guess you can’t, however, come back tomorrow and use your gift card to buy more wifi…) If you sit around all day and buy nothing,… Read more »
MyNameIsMatt
8 years 7 months ago
Lots of good comments already, but I think two key points have been unrecognized, although, the Panera bread comment highlighted it some. First, while you’re laptop customers may be freeloaders, or near enough, most will probably prefer that the business succeed. They don’t want to harm the business by using its services, which is a really good clue that you should be open with customers like Panera is. Ask them to be considerate of the business going on, and do what you can to limit you footprint (like an environmental pitch) on the business as you take advantage of the… Read more »
elf
elf
8 years 7 months ago
You can buy off the shelf turnkey solutions like the ZyAir G-4100 (http://us.zyxel.com/products/model.php?indexcate=1103876296&indexFlagvalue=1021876859) that can be preprogrammed for an expiring 1 hour password. Buy anything and the person at the register simply pushes a button and a password is printed. The only downside is that the person behind the counter needs to keep consumables in the printer. (anyone who has had to deal with a line of guests and deal with a register printer can know how this sucks) – Turning off the wireless is unacceptable. – Charging for it only frustrates people. – Forcing people to buy something, even… Read more »
Jay B
Jay B
8 years 7 months ago

There’s alot of technology and social engineering involved in lots of the solutions mentioned, but I think the simplest (and maybe least popular) would be this:

Raise your prices for food and coffee.

– Pure freeloaders might not want to pay more.
– Loyal customers will then effectively be paying a wifi tax for the luxury of having space and wifi on demand.
– To-go customers will simply add revenue (if their numbers don’t drop too sharply).
– There is little to no cost in money, time, or technology to implement this.
– Customers will still have continue to have a hassle-free connection experience.

Ryan King
8 years 7 months ago

I’d either raise the coffee prices or turn of the power outlets during peak hours.

Graham
8 years 7 months ago

I should point out that when I left my suggestion, the earlier comment proposing EXACTLY the same thing was not visible.

And here’s an idea: instead of WiFi, network jacks. Limit the number.

I suppose an economist would ask, where are the incentives? People have no incentive not to sit around all day surfing (er, working). How can we make it worth their while to move along?

Matt
Matt
8 years 7 months ago

I would implement modular seating and dining areas, so that you can rapidly transform the space to better handle peak traffic. It would be interesting to implement this in a way that the patron’s can modify the environment themselves. For example, remove all large tables and just allow for groupings of small tables. Maybe make them lightweight and on casters, so that they can easily be moved when needed.

Mark
8 years 7 months ago
Puzzle solved. Keep the wifi free. Charge a premium for power. Keep the power plentiful, but put a sign up explaining the policy. Be frank about it, tell the customer all the angles. Put little placards on the tables with outlets nearby. Anyone sitting there for an hour will eventually read the placard. The placard and signs should explain the business problem of free wifi and non-eating, drinking customers sitting there for hours on end. This upfront solution should endear the regular, loyal customers to the business and produce empathy to plight of the business owner. With all this in… Read more »
Jared Goralnick
8 years 7 months ago
One example and one devil’s advocate comment here.. Tryst, a popular DC coffeehouse, has a policy of no wifi on the weekends. They have cute signs up that say to stop working on your laptops because it’s the weekend. However, this and the other solutions don’t get at the core of the problem that will be more of a problem as time goes on: – it doesn’t curb extended laptop use (with or without internet) – it doesn’t address the issue of people staying forever even without a laptop (though I find this to be less of a problem as… Read more »
JustinF
JustinF
8 years 7 months ago

I would just dedicate an area in the shop as a laptop area during peak hours. This area would be dedicated to the folks on laptops and no one else could use the tables there, nor could they use their laptops elsewhere. If all the tables where taken, you had to go. This way there would be tables open for new customers and you don’t alienate your loyal customers with convoluted payment and timing schemes.

Ryan Tetick
Ryan Tetick
8 years 7 months ago
Lots of good suggestions posted already, here’s another take… FIRST: During peak hours (maybe 6 PM – 9 PM) allow for 30 minutes of free access with a purchase using the network pass-code printed on a receipt described above. But then charge for internet access in half hour blocks (charge a rate that is roughly commensurate to what you want your average customer to spend in your shop per half hour – $2? $3? $4?). Ideally, allow the customer to pay for additional access from their seat. Customers accustomed to getting free access get it after buying their Joe, but… Read more »
trackback

[…] a matter of hours, there are more than thirty comments with all kinds of suggestions and ideas. People of all backgrounds living in many different places took the time to think the problem over […]

adam
adam
8 years 7 months ago
after reading 10 responses I kinda got tired of the hardware ‘solutions’ … how about just put out a few signs that politely ask people to not occupy the tables for more than 30 minutes during peak hours? Or have an ‘internet minimum’ policy that you’ve got to buy a drink for every hour you’re going to be online during peak hours? As long as it’s written and posted, people won’t act like the world is ending when you ask them to give up their seat. That or limit the number of AC plugs… once everyone’s battery dies they’ll have… Read more »
Ricky Chang
8 years 7 months ago
I think the measure of the solution should be if it’s low cost to implement and how much training involved for staff or customers. I think you can copy the solution from other service industry that has similar problem. I’m think about gym during peak hours and grocery stores during peak hours. Here are two different proposals. 1) hand out cards with last purchase time that users are to place on the table. When the stores gets busy, waiter can ask the user with the oldest last purchase time to make more purchase or leave. Or during peak hours, ask… Read more »
trackback
8 years 7 months ago

[…] Ramit made a post here regarding a coffee […]

Kin
8 years 7 months ago
I know this may sound lame, than all the great schemes of charging extra for this and that, or an attempt to “manage” people (you can never manage people). How about just telling the truth and announcing a “common good” policy to all customers, “please be kind and share all the tables.” And also, they can announce the problem and tell customers to be courteous enough to leave the shop for others to enjoy the coffee shop when they have been there for, say 1 hour. To me, appealing to the common good in people because they’re all loyal customers… Read more »
Lynoure Braakman
8 years 7 months ago

From business point of view I do like the solutions that do not require extra investment into the infrastructure.

So I’d try:

* Informing customers
* Shutting down wi-fi for peak hours
* Make peak hour wi-fi regulars-only by requiring a passphrase to be inputted and giving that to the regulars you like

I would not slow the connection speed because: a) it’s not likely that downloaders are the ones taking all the table space and b) it might make people who get a cup of coffee in order to quickly check their mail (or somesuch) to stay longer.

Mr Funk
Mr Funk
8 years 7 months ago

I’d say a combo of many of the ideas above:

1. A designated wi-fi zone for campers. This can be enforced only from 10 – 2 or something.

2. “Friendly” staff that come bug you if you’ve been there too long

3. A technical solution where individual users are slowly tapered off bandwidth-wise until they buy something

4. Some sort of “VIP” program where you get to opt out of #1 and #2.

5. Only support Macs 🙂 This’d cut down to the coffee-drinking machines anyway 😀

Tyler Weaver
8 years 7 months ago
Lace the coffee with ex-lax? The problem is that a lot of customers of the cafe use it as an informal meeting place. Then others use it as an office. This is one of the reasons why cafe’s don’t necessarily compete on price with comparable eateries. Taking away the internet right at prime time forces people to leave. What if these are the same people that were siting most of the day, but come lunch time would order a sandwich.. I vote for the point system. Maybe, A coffee = 2 hours, add in a snack = another hour, add… Read more »
Jordan Pearce
8 years 7 months ago
There is a coffeehouse in Seattle that is packed pretty much from when they open early morning to 10pm everyday. They offer free wi fi with the exception of the weekends! That was a shock for me and I haven’t been back since because I’m in Seattle on the weekends with my laptop. When I got my computer my thought was “now I can hang out at my favorite coffee shop.” Ok. If I were a coffee shop owner I’d have tables reserved for computer use and tables reserved for service only during peak hours. Almost like smoking and non… Read more »
Writer's Coin
8 years 7 months ago

Caribou has a good system: free for one hour and then you have to pay for it. Not necessarily for the food but for the wireless access.

Cosmin
Cosmin
8 years 7 months ago
If revenue is what management is worried about (and I’m sorry to hear that it’s the case), it would be a good idea to let the source of the problem – from a managerial point of view, that would bee the Internet providing – solve things up. Link the access server data with the revenue for each table – this way, the system can keep statistical records that track mean revenue for each client/time spent. After the manager traces the MACs of it’s loyal and profitable clients, the server can then react by granting access to some users or not.… Read more »
ideapreneur
8 years 7 months ago

I would say you have to purchase a minimum of X dollars of food to be able to use the internet. Similar to jazz lounges, you can enter for free, but they will tell you that you have to purchase X amount for drinks/food, and the waiters come around to collect your orders. There’s also instituting a time limit much like the gyms have limits per machine. I think that would work without annoying customers too much.

JP
JP
8 years 7 months ago

A lot of times people come up with wicked complex solutions/ideas that make perfect sense but get lost in translation because people won’t take time to understand it.

You have got to keep this simple:

*Free WI-FI during non-peak hours.
*Charge for WI-FI during peak hours.

Paul Singh
Paul Singh
8 years 7 months ago

How about a hybrid solution?

Using a router with QoS (Quality of Service) capabilities – have one small bandwidth pipe by default. For those that chose to buy something, put an access code on their receipt that gets them 2(?) hours of access to the full speed stuff?

Or hey – how about just having some events that encourage customer interaction. That’s a novel idea!

Bill
Bill
8 years 7 months ago

These people have no right to complain, they are in business to sell you a cup of coffee and maybe a danish not to be your free ISP. Most people go to a coffee shop to get coffee, not to get on the internet.

Majority rules here. The business owner has every right to limit the access as he sees fit. So tell all those pretentious freeloaders to shut the hell up.

Joe C
Joe C
8 years 7 months ago

Cover/remove all public power outlets. Customers only get as much time as their machines have battery life (about 2 hours). This doesn’t require any costs of instituting a complicated point system, nor does it alienate customers.

I don’t think anyone has suggested this yet, but I skipped some comments in the middle. If they have, I apologize for repeating.

Girls Just Wanna Have Funds
8 years 7 months ago

I would just reward the loyal customers, afterall this is where your return revenue lies. So why not just get the loyal folks on a point system and when they sign up they get a freebie of sorts. Then for the random people coming in if they want benefits they sign up as well. With regards to the

Alex
Alex
8 years 7 months ago
If I were a coffee shop owner, I think I would look for a solution thats as transparent as possible to the customer. All customers are welcome in my book, laptop or not. How could I cater to each without proposing confusing rules or putting it on my staff to ‘shame’ my customers? A WiFi bar is an excellent idea proposed above… lots of seats are wasted with laptop users settling into tables meant for 2 or 4 people. A creative approach to table layout could make this so much less of a problem. The login page (like Panera’s mentioned… Read more »
Carlin
Carlin
8 years 7 months ago
I’d just switch out all the chairs with the most uncomfortable things I could find (but that still fit the mood of the place). If you could stand to sit in the thing for 3 hours, then you deserve to have free internet access. I’d also make sure the main draw wasn’t that you could sit there for hours, but instead make sure people were coming for the coffee and food, so that they wouldn’t mind the chairs. I also like the time-sensitive code idea that makes you buy stuff (ideally you’d get more time if you spent more –… Read more »
Chris
Chris
8 years 7 months ago

The owner should make the seating area comfortable, but not the kind of place where people would want to get work done or otherwise spend hours on end – think about seating at a fast food restaurant – its not bothersome, but also not the kind of place you want to spend a few hours. Also, having a waiter walking around actively asking people if they need more coffee might increase business from potential freeloaders.

Jim
8 years 7 months ago
I would implement the credit idea with a twist… 1. I would allow free access during non-peak hours 2. When you make a purchase of a certain amount of money, you earn a specific amount of peak internet usage. For example, if you spend $1, you earn 10 minutes of peak usage. I’d also allow people to use previous receipts to earn time or use a friend’s receipt who may not need the time, but has spent the money. The staff would need to keep all original receipts for this to work. But it would allow the internet users to… Read more »
andreas
andreas
8 years 7 months ago

how about just opening an Internet Cafe next door?

Graham Powell
8 years 7 months ago

One possible social solution: require usernames to log in to WiFi, as several people have suggested. Then have a monitor up at the front of the store that shows these usernames and the duration that they have been logged in.

When someone comes in and can’t be seated, maybe even have a staffer stand up and say, “User so-and-so, will you give up your seat? How about you, user such-and-such?”

vh
8 years 7 months ago
LOL! What would I do? Never patronize the coffee shop again. That was easy. What is it about “good will” that business owners don’t understand? JP has the right idea: keep it simple! “*Free WI-FI during non-peak hours. *Charge for WI-FI during peak hours.” But since that’s a change in a policy that customers have become comfortable with, the change needs to be advertised well in advance — like, weeks in advance — with prominent signs, flyers, table tents, and even staff telling customers as they deliver drinks and food. The customer in your anecdote, who clearly had been blindsided,… Read more »
Akshay Kapur
8 years 7 months ago
Lower the heat on peak hours…I’m pretty sure that’s what Panera Bread does. I spent a lot of time there as a student getting free refills of coffee and tapping away at my laptop, sometimes from 8am till close (obsessive, i know). The mornings were great, but around lunch time, it would get so cold I could barely stay there. Upping the A/C could’ve been a strategy to counteract the body heat from the high volume of people at lunch, but they got about the same volume for b-fast and dinner, so I don’t think that was it. Another thing… Read more »
Bill Mossburg
8 years 7 months ago
First, I would study the situation to see where the bucks were; can I live without the notebook space pirates or are they a big chunk of the butter for my bread. Then its just simple math and common sense: are you in the coffee shop business or are you in the wifi business. Which one makes the money. If you are convinced the laptop loiterers are not worth it then charge them a fee that makes the lost table space worth it. If they are your best customers then give them flyers to hand out to their friends and… Read more »
Sebastian
Sebastian
8 years 7 months ago

Starbucks now has got a new coffee WLAN deal with AT&T. So NO T-Mobile anymore in Starbucks.

Viral
Viral
8 years 7 months ago

Well I think if the wifi cutomers don’t ad much value but surely does generate some revenues, then one must consider opening a seperate room for them considering the financial requirement and the breakeven time for the same. If such a option is pursued then the existing location can be used solely for the customers who add value.

Others can just pay maybe half of what one pays at other wifi stations and recover remaining from the products they buy.

Josh
Josh
8 years 7 months ago

A local coffee shop uses what I think is a pretty good system. Whenever someone buys something, they get a receipt with a key for free internet that is only valid for an hour and a half. Therefore, people who need internet need to buy something every so often. Its still free internet, but you have coffee or whatever every couple hours or so. Pretty fair.

matt yabsley
matt yabsley
8 years 5 months ago

Laptops users, the new smokers of the world eh? ´Go on give them a section that makes them feel like the anti social smokers 😉

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