The advent of internet technology has brought about a revolution in the way people work, study and spend their leisure time. Email, online document sharepoints and networks, interactive web sessions, digital documents and more, have changed the face of business and education, as well as study and work habits. In addition, wireless connections and laptop computers have enabled people to carry on internet activities on their own computers, at any location of their choosing, as long as an internet connection is available. No longer are internet users tied to desktop computers at work, home or school.
Portability and wireless connections enable users to access the internet on their own computers, provided a wireless connection is available. In North America alone, an estimated 229,140,000 people use the internet, accounting for almost 70 percent of the population. Internet use has become firmly embedded in our culture. (Internet World Stats) Coffee shops have experienced a renaissance, starting in the early 1990s in Seattle. They rose in popularity during the same period of time as the internet. Since the two have merged, the addition of Wi-Fi to coffee shops has been advantageous and profitable.
The appeal of coffee shops is in their casual atmosphere, which encourages patrons to linger with coffee, food and reading material. Frequently, coffee shops would provide newspapers or magazines as perks to their customers, many of whom also brought their own reading material. (Blackwell 2003) Now, coffee shop users are becoming accustomed to bringing their laptop computers instead of or in addition to reading material. Offering an internet connection to patrons is a logical extension. Models exist for both fee-based and free connections.
However, the research shows that coffee shops, long-time bastions of leisurely reading or study, are businesses that stand to profit from the inclusion of free wireless internet technology as a regular value-added feature. What is Wi-Fi? Wi-Fi stands for “Wireless Fidelity,” and is included in many coffee shops either as a free amenity, or paid on a daily or monthly scale. Page #3 Rather than connecting to the internet via dial-up connection, which uses telephone lines, or Ethernet, which requires connecting via jack, the user is able to access the internet wirelessly.
Wi-Fi can cost a business approximately $8,000 a year to install and maintain, but has the potential to generate profits more than 500 percent greater than coffee shops that do not have free Wi-Fi. (“Fee or Free? ”) A benefit to offering Wi-Fi is the lack of constraint – it is not necessary to install jacks and outlets throughout the establishment, or to provide the necessary cords for connection. Patrons sitting on outside patios also have access to the internet without being required to hook up to the connection with a cord.
Greater numbers of patrons who are able to use the internet connection translate to greater profits for the coffee shop. (Wired for Coffee Case Study) 2. Brief background on Wired for Coffee Wired for Coffee is a coffee shop that exists as a successful model of offering a free wireless internet connection to its patrons. Page #4 Wired for Coffee opened in Irvine, California in 2001. It was specifically designed to appeal to the “high tech” crowd’s discerning palates and technological sensibilities. Wired for Coffee based their business model on offering high quality coffee roasted in small batches, as well as high quality baked goods.
Wired for Coffee also offered, as a value added feature, free access to the internet via dial-up connection. While providing free access to the internet proved to be a profitable decision, Wired for Coffee’s owner, Henry Golden, was unhappy with the bottlenecks created by slow access provided by the dial-up connection as well as the high cost of the multiple lines. After a chance meeting with a D-Link representative, Golden eventually utilized D-Link’s cable modems, wired Ethernet, and wireless networking.
“The high-speed solution was to get a business class cable connection and D-Link cable modems, D-Link wired Ethernet and D-Link wireless networking, thus turning Wired for Coffee into a powerful “hot spot” for Henry’s customers. ” Golden was able to offer his clientele secure high-speed internet connections that provided wireless internet inside the coffee shop, as well as covering a 300-foot radius outside the store. Page #5 The addition of Wi-Fi had a positive impact on Wired for Coffee’s profits. Within one week of installation, the customer base is reported to have increased by 20 percent. (Wired for Coffee Case Study)