It's been there for years, that little sign on the bulk of café windows proudly proclaiming there's totally free WiFi access. But as Anne Kadet of the Wall Street Journal reports, those little notes of technological deliciousness soon might fade into the past. Birch Coffee, Café Grumpy, and DTUT are amongst the few that are now spearheading the WiFi ban, at various levels of severity.
What's prompting the WiFi shutdown
From the purely business standpoint, a big complaint of cafés and other restaurants that offer WiFi is that people come in with their devices--laptops, for example--and then park themselves for hours. They might buy a cookie or coffee or parfait or whatever else floats their boat, but the businesses often lose money because other patrons can't take their seat and order, too. Many non-tech customers are equally unhappy and feel that the WiFi users should pay for Internet at home or go to a library instead.
Unplugging for the menu--and connection
Despite the fact taking WiFi away from customers might be financially beneficial, prompting faster turnover of tables and more sales, there's other potential side effects of shutting the Internet down. One is that, with customers less focused on technology, they can practice more mindful eating, and pay real attention to what they order in terms of elements like texture or overall satisfaction. That focus could create a more positive perception of the fare and prompt customers to come back.
But perhaps the biggest benefit is that people can connect not to devices, but to each other. They can get away from their screens and have meaningful conversations, make new friends and yes, maybe even come across their next new business partner. With people talking instead of surfing, the entire atmosphere of the café can change, potentially boosting people's moods and brightening their lives.
As Kadet notes, not all cafés experimenting with WiFi access are ruling it out completely. Some are finding a happy medium, restricting access at particular times of the week or day. Experiment right along with them and see what you like. An open mind (plus a little coffee) never hurts anybody.