Are HotSpots the New Cold Spots?

The New York Times has an interesting article today comparing the tactics coffee shops take to draw in loitering lingering crowds compared to movie theaters.

WI-FI service is quickly becoming the air-conditioning of the Internet age, enticing customers into restaurants and other public spaces in the same way that cold “advertising air” deliberately blasted out the open doors of air-conditioned theaters in the early 20th century to help sell tickets.

Today, hotspots are the new cold spots.

The big difference, of course, is that movie theaters don’t charge customers by the minute for the freon. So why doesn’t Starbucks offer free wifi? The New York Times reporter surmises that they don’t have to, compared to a store like Panera Bread which has far more empty seats to fill during the off hours.

Panera has no interest in rushing these customers out — the longer they stay, the greater the likelihood that resistance to the aroma of freshly baked muffins will crumble. Free, unmetered Wi-Fi is one way the restaurant sends an unambiguous signal: Stay as long as you like.

I guess they haven’t seen just how long I can nurse a latte.

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