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.


Judi Sohn

Dave, well that’s exactly the point I think the article tries to make. Starbucks won’t stop charging for wifi until their tables are empty between 10-11 am or 2-3 pm. They charge because they don’t have a reason not too. In a lot of communities, there is little competition. Even in New York City, where there is a coffee shop or free wifi on nearly every corner the Starbucks are often packed. I think it’s because they know exactly what to expect when they walk in, good or bad.


I think Coffee Bean only does two hours free, but that’s better than nothing.

I can drink a lot of coffee in two hours.

Dave C.

I think it’s only a matter of time before Starbucks gets on the boat with the free wifi. There’s just too many businesses going that direction to avoid complying. Coffee Been & Tea Leaf as well as some Deidrich’s offer free wifi connections and a lot of local coffee shops in my area do the same in order to compete with Starbucks. I can’t see them holding out forever.

It’s also only a matter of time before people start realizing Panera Bread pretty much sucks 110% of the time. Go Corner Bakery!

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