In an age of broadband Internet, i-cafes, and wireless access, many New Haven business owners, including at bars and restaurants, said they seek to attract Yale students and downtown businesspeople by offering free WiFi.
Richter’s Café, which plans to introduce free wireless Internet for its customers next month, will soon join a growing list of local New Haven businesses that provide free WiFi. Despite the cost, most business owners are providing the service for their customers because they feel it’s the right thing to do.
Dieter von Rabenstein, the owner of Richter’s, said he wanted to add WiFi after he noticed more customers bringing in their computers to do work. For him, it was not an issue of competition.
“[Richter’s] is not a place like Starbucks … where WiFi is very important,” he said. “It’s more of a convenience for our customers.”
But, he said, having WiFi may be good for business as well. “Obviously,” he said, “they may come here instead of somewhere else.”
Indeed, many local businesses have introduced wireless Internet access since the technology became popular. The concert venue and bar Firehouse 12 has provided wireless Internet since it first opened in 2004.
“It was sort of a no-brainer,” Dan Fine, Firehouse 12’s concert producer, said.
While he admits free WiFi does not draw in “a lot” of customers, Fine said it has increased the number of people who stay for happy hour by attracting people earlier in the afternoon.
But not all local business are experimenting with wireless Internet. Although Dunkin’ Donuts offers free WiFi at select shops, the location on Chapel Street does not have wireless Internet. Cashier Jackie Ferraro said most people make their purchases to go. She said she does not see the value in adding WiFi since customers rarely sit down, even during the weekend.
And an employee of the bar Keys to the City at Caffé Bottega, who declined to give his name, said it did not make sense for the bar to provide wireless Internet access.
“We’re a nighttime restaurant,” he said. “I don’t think the dinner crowd brings in laptops.”
Even though not all Yale students interviewed feel that WiFi is a necessity at local cafes, many said they appreciate it.
“I think cafes with WiFi definitely draw in the college crowd,” Dorothy Kwok SPH ’10 said.
Others felt it a matter of necessity.
“WiFi should be a requirement,” Cole Wheeler ’13 said. “Its a terrible distraction, but it’s also useful for productivity. There are times when I could do nothing without the Internet.”