Eating out has traditionally been a social activity. It’s a chance for busy families to connect over a meal, for colleagues to strike business deals or friends to catch up on each other’s lives. But more and more, diners are paying more attention to their phones than each other.
Contemporarily, we live with a strong attachment to our phones. For better or for worse, that’s the reality in the digital age. No matter how much you wish restaurants could go back to being the social hubs they once were, cell phones are here to stay, which means you need to offer WiFi at your restaurant.
No matter how you feel about surveying your dining room floor only to see a sea of customers buried in their devices, there are upsides to our need for connectivity.
Namely, you can use WiFi as a marketing secret weapon for your restaurant.
Offering free WiFi to your guests will cost you an initial investment in purchasing a router and an internet service provider plan. But if you use it correctly, it can pay for itself, and then some.
Why offer WiFi in the first place?
There are some rewards that your restaurant can reap just by offering free WiFi to guests.
For starters, 96 percent of guests prefer establishments that offer free WiFi. Just by having that connection, you have a leg up over any of your competition that doesn’t offer it.
Plus, restaurants report big boosts in visitors and profits when they offer free wifi. A survey by Devicescape found that 62 percent of restaurants that offer free WiFi report their customers stay longer, and 50 percent say their customers spend more on average. That makes sense, because WiFi encourages guests to settle in for a while, which means they might need a few rounds of coffee or appetizers throughout their stay. With the rise in the gig economy, and freelancing and telecommuting becoming more common, many people are choosing to work in restaurants, bars and cafes. This means that they’ll happily purchase multiple drinks and meals throughout the day in exchange for a comfortable chair and a stable internet connection.
It’s also important to note that guests are much more likely to “check in” at your restaurant on social media during their stay. They may also post photos of your food, drinks and space. These photos are basically free social media marketing that your customers are sending straight to their friends and followers on your behalf.
If your WiFi is good quality, you’ll start to see guests in need of a connection make repeat visits. They’ll know your establishment is a place where they can get food and drinks while getting things done. They’ll probably even bring others to your restaurant when they invite friends out for a coffee or a drink. Social posts, loyal repeat business and new customers? That’s some solid marketing you’re getting for just the price of a high-speed internet package.
Your WiFi can be one of the most powerful marketing tools.
While your WiFi can do some marketing for you just by being free and available, you can also take steps to consciously use it, spreading your brand even further.
The first step is employing a “gate” or a sign-on page that customers have to navigate in order to access your free WiFi. If you ask them to enter their email address to gain access, many of them will. This tactic allows you to collect contact information on a ton of valuable customers, to whom you can then market directly with email advertising campaigns (so long as they give you permission to).
Having free WiFi can help you collect valuable insights about your guests that you can then use in other marketing campaigns. Your network can track when guests arrive and when they leave, how often they log in and how long they stay. You can match network data to receipts to get a clearer picture of what your guests buy and when, as well as how much they spend in relation to how long they stay. All of this can be applied to loyalty promotions, social media advertising and more. For example, maybe you notice guests who stay for several hours in the mornings to use your WiFi also tend to purchase several pastries or snacks, but don’t usually stay long enough to also purchase lunch. Offer them a promotion, like a discount on lunch specials or a free drink with their lunch purchase, and that’s likely to change.
When customers connect to your WiFi, it can trigger automated campaigns that make the entire experience of dining at your establishment more personalized. For example, customers logging off your restaurant WiFi can trigger an email that reminds them to rate your restaurant on Yelp or TripAdvisor, or fill out a satisfaction survey. Customers can receive a “thank you” email that will land in their inbox by the time they arrive home after having dinner at your restaurant. They can receive a coupon for a free dessert as soon as they walk in the door after a long absence, encouraging them to start visiting more regularly. Customers who haven’t logged on in a while could receive targeted “We want you back” promotions offering them a perk if they stop back in.
Then, after you deliver a personalized experience that will delight your guests, cash in on the effort you’ve put into making their time at your restaurant one of a kind. Using your WiFi to trigger an email asking diners to leave a review for your restaurant after they leave can pay off in a big way.
A study by the Harvard Business Review found that online reviews may be even more important to a restaurant’s success than we even realize. According to the study, 57 percent of consumers actively avoid businesses that have negative reviews. It also found that raising your restaurant’s rating on a review site by one star can translate to a 5 to 9 percent increase in sales. Another study done at UC Berkeley found that a half-star increase translates to a 19 percent higher likelihood that a restaurant will have all seats filled during peak times.
The bottom line - is that good reviews can have a hugely positive impact on your bottom line.
If you have happy guests and encourage them to leave reviews about their good experiences, it really pays off.