Restaurant WiFi Marketing: The Ultimate Guide

By Katie McCann

Free wifi sign posted in cafe window

Think that offering free restaurant WiFi for your guests is an unnecessary expense? Think again.

Not only do 96% of customers prefer locations that offer free WiFi, but they also return to those venues more often. And your restaurant’s guest WiFi network allows you to do so much more than simply offer free wireless Internet. In this article, we break down the benefits of restaurant WiFi and explain how you can benefit from WiFi marketing for restaurants.

What Is WiFi Marketing? 

WiFi marketing is using an internet sign-on splash page to collect customer information in exchange for access to your restaurant WiFi.
Sign-ons, or “gates,” for logging onto a restaurant WiFi network often require the user to connect their social media accounts or to enter an email address. You may even require customers to like your Facebook page so they can sign on to your network. This process is sometimes referred to as “social WiFi marketing.”
So what’s the point of all this? Social wifi marketing is a mutually beneficial exchange. Diners benefit from the convenience of free WiFi – helping them save on data costs – and you benefit with increased revenue and brand awareness.

In other words, you’re building a database of customer contacts, complete with information like ​​location, number of visits, and even demographics like gender and age. You can then access this database and use their wealth of information to send personalized 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 WiFi 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 WiFi Usage in the United States

You’re paying for restaurant 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 for restaurants, consider this:

  • Smartphone usage is at an all-time high –  in 2020, Americans spent over 4 hours each day on their phones. It’s safe to say most of those people dread the text saying they’re going over their data. This means you have people looking for Wi-Fi at any corner. 
  • 62% of businesses said that customers spend more time in their venue if WiFi access is offered.
  • 74% of customers say they want free WiFi to be part of their dining experience.

Think of how many potential customers could come to you when they’re looking for somewhere for WiFi restaurants.

Why Invest in a WiFi Marketing Strategy?

Chances are, restaurant WiFi 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 WiFi marketing strategy actually work?
Short answer – yes. 
If you’re looking for a longer answer, business owners found that after implementing WiFi in their facility, around 50% of customers spent more money. After offering free in-house WiFi 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 WiFi in restaurants and WiFi marketing, here’s how to make it work for your venue.  

Grow Your Contact Lists

Instead of signing into the restaurant WiFi 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 WiFi and your restaurant obtains a method of communicating with them. While the WiFi marketing platform is building your customer database, you can use it to message customers using the contact information they have provided.

Restaurant wifi marketing platform infographic.

Send Promotions that Get Results

WiFi 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 WiFi 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 restaurant’s 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 WiFi Marketing

Getting started with WiFi marketing for restaurants is easier than you may think. Most WiFi 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

Secure Your Network

Once you’ve decided to offer public access to your restaurant WiFi, you’ll need to take a few steps to prevent hackers from ​​​​intercepting crucial financial information.

Here are a few tips:

  • Enable WPA2 security – the latest wifi standard included in most routers
  • Set and change your passwords frequently
  • Setup firewalls for an added layer of security
  • Create separate, private networks for your POS and other businesses needs, so guest usage won’t affect operations or security
  • Store the router in a safe place to avoid tampering
  • Disable WPS – a feature that lets anyone connect to your device with a simple click

Restaurant WiFi 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 WiFi marketing plan even easier.

Your business can capitalize on WiFi marketing for restaurants 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 WiFi 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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