WiFi Marketing for Restaurants: The Ultimate Guide

By Katie McCann

Free wifi sign posted in cafe window

Think that offering free Wi-Fi for your guests is an unnecessary expense? Think again.

Not only do 96% of customers prefer locations that offer free Wi-Fi, but they also return to those venues more often. And your restaurant’s guest Wi-Fi network allows you to do so much more than simply offer free wireless Internet.

What Is Wi-Fi Marketing? 

Wi-Fi marketing is using an internet sign on splash page to collect customer information and advertise to them. 
Sign-ons, or “gates,” for logging onto a restaurant Wi-Fi network include social media accounts or an email address. You may even require customers to like your Facebook page so they can sign on to your network. 
So what’s the point of this? Building a database of customer contacts. You can then access this database to send messages, coupons, or promotions to your customers. 
Take this scenario: a customer uses their email address to get internet access. You then decide to deliver a Wi-Fi marketing campaign with the goal of making their dining experience more personal. You may choose to send a thank you email when the customer leaves your restaurant. Or maybe you want to send them a coupon for a free appetizer that can arrive as they walk in the door. 

Current Wi-Fi Usage in the United States

You’re paying for Wi-Fi already, so you may as well invest in ways to grow your customer loyalty through Wi-Fi marketing. If you’re thinking it’s too expensive to invest in the upfront costs of Wi-Fi marketing, consider this:

Think of how many potential customers could come to you when they’re looking for somewhere to connect!

Why Invest in a Wi-Fi Marketing Strategy?

Chances are, Wi-Fi marketing isn’t the first thing that comes to your mind as a business owner. But without it, you could be missing an opportunity to improve customer loyalty while gathering important intel on your diners – who they are, how often they’re visiting your restaurant, and sometimes what they’re ordering. 
While all this information is helpful, we’re sure you’re thinking one thing – does a Wi-Fi marketing strategy actually work?
Short answer – yes. 
If you’re looking for a longer answer, business owners found that after implementing Wi-Fi in their facility, around 50% of customers spent more money. After offering free in-house Wi-Fi to customers, business owners saw growth in a few areas, including the following:

  • Foot traffic
  • Time spent 
  • Money spent

 Now that you know a little more about Wi-Fi marketing, here’s how to make it work for your restaurant.  

Grow Your Contact Lists

Instead of signing into the restaurant Wi-Fi with a password, guests sign-in with their email, phone number, Facebook profile, or Twitter handle. The available sign-in methods depend on what kind of contact information you want to collect.

Once a customer successfully signs in, they gain access to the free Wi-Fi and your restaurant obtains a method of communicating with them. While the Wi-Fi marketing platform is building your customer database, you can use it to message customers using the contact information they have provided.

wifi marketing platform infographic

Send Promotions that Get Results

Wi-Fi marketing platforms enable restaurants to send highly contextual messages that aren’t possible with other email marketing systems. Set-and-forget personalized emails and text messages that will keep customers coming back again and again.

Some of the most popular types of automated marketing prompts are:

  • Triggering a message upon entering the restaurant – ideal for encouraging more in-store purchases
  • Triggering a message upon exiting the restaurant – ideal for increasing repeat visits and customer loyalty
  • Triggering a message for at-risk customers (haven’t returned in 30 days) – ideal for customer retention

These types of marketing campaigns are extremely effective because they take the customers’ location data into consideration. This makes the message very relevant to the person receiving it. Other characteristics, such as the number of visits, age and gender info can also be implemented for further targeting.

Location-based messages can be the key to catering to loyal customers and the ace-up-the-sleeve for retaining at-risk customers.

Measure the Effectiveness of Your Campaigns

One of the most valuable features of a Wi-Fi marketing platform is the ability to track the results of email and SMS marketing campaigns.

The following campaign insights can be viewed from an online dashboard:

  • The amount of emails/SMS sent and the open rate
  • The amount of coupons sent and the open rate
  • The amount of coupons redeemed (redemption rate)

Additionally, a campaign dashboard should provide a complete breakdown of who signed up, when, how, whether they viewed the email, viewed the coupon, and if they redeemed it, when.

This valuable information related to email open rates, coupon views, and redemptions, is typically out of reach for businesses that use traditional couponing tactics.

When it comes to satisfying your customers, don’t rely on old-school methodologies and couponing tactics. With the help of smart campaign insights, businesses can determine which campaigns are working and which ones aren’t.

Grow Your Online Presence

By utilizing the custom branded splash page, your restaurant can gain more followers, likes, or reviews on social media by redirecting customers to your Facebook, Instagram, Yelp and Twitter pages.

Upon signing-in, promote your restaurant’s social media pages or review sites to help increase your social and online presence. Alternatively, you can send connected users to your website to learn more about your business.

How to Get Started with Wi-Fi Marketing

Getting started with Wi-Fi marketing at your restaurant is easier than you may think. Most Wi-Fi plugin providers offer similar services, but you’ll want to make sure you have access to the following features:

  • Marketing campaign execution
  • Social media connection
  • Back-end reporting 

 Here are a few providers to consider:

  • Aislelabs: With big restaurant names as clients – such as Panera Bread and Pizza Nova – Aislelabs offers Wi Fi marketing packages specific to the restaurant industry.
  • Yelp WiFi: Yelp purchased Turnstyle Solutions to create Yelp WiFi with the goal to provide more services to help businesses grow customer retention and loyalty.  
  • Social WiFi: If you’re a large venue, Social WiFi will send their engineers to help with installation

Wi-Fi can be a very effective marketing channel, providing a direct, branded communication channel between merchant and customer. Finding the right provider can make executing a Wi-Fi marketing plan even easier.

Your business can capitalize on Wi-Fi marketing to gather analytics, collect contact info and push context sensitive messages to your guests, helping you maintain a loyal customer base and get the most out of your monthly Wi-Fi expense.

Photo of Katie McCann
by Katie McCann

Katie is a former Content Marketing Specialist at TouchBistro where she writes about food and restaurant experiences. She doesn’t shy away from the finer things in life, but no matter how much success she continues to acquire, she stays true to her roots and still considers imitation crab as gourmet. If she isn’t writing, you can find her on a patio with friends and a pitcher of white wine sangria.

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