Study: Wi-Fi users are no freeloaders

Offering free Wi-Fi can get a cafe more customers, and they're browsers not table-hogs, according to a study of Paris coffee shops.

The study tracked Wi-Fi usage at five Paris branches of coffee chain Columbus Cafe over three months.

According to the chain's Wi-Fi provider, the sites attracted three to five times more users per day than paid-for rivals, but those users stayed online for less time on average than paying users.'s VP Joe Brunoli claimed that the study confounded the popular idea that free Wi-Fi would lead to Internet junkies hogging tables during busy times such as the lunch hour.

"Instead, usage tends to be in the afternoon, which is traditionally a down-time for the hospitality industry," he said. Only three percent of usage was after the cafes' 8 p.m. closing time, he added.

Connection stats showed the cafe hotspots attracted nine to ten users a day Monday to Friday, falling to six a day at weekends. That sounds tiny, but Brunoli claimed that usage at pay-hotspots can be as low as one or two connections a day.

The average length of connection was 89 minutes, which Brunoli said was shorter than expected but made sense in hindsight.

"It's free, so there's no fear that you're wasting money," he explained. "Connection-hogging is more of a problem for paid schemes, where people think 'I've paid for this, so I'm going to use it!'"

He added that if each user spends an average of Euro 3 (AUD$5), the extra business generated will easily cover the Euro 25 a month cost of providing the DSL connection. Hotspot installation costs around Euro 90, he said, while ongoing maintenance is paid for by his company from its advertising revenue.

That assumes that Wi-Fi users are indeed additional customers, which isn't necessarily true of course. However, Columbus Cafe's marketing director Luc Heitz said that Wi-Fi is important for keeping existing customers as well.

"Wi-Fi access is one more amenity, one more added service that we can offer to make our existing customers feel at home, and to attract new customers," he said. "Most of the customers using the service are business people or students, who are our main target.

"It is difficult to say if the free Wi-Fi service is encouraging them to come into the cafe or not, but what we can say is that these people have been regularly using the service since it was installed. I'm sure they've been talking about the service with friends and family, and thanks to that, more and more people are now coming to the cafe."

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Bryan Betts
Show Comments


James Cook University - Master of Data Science Online Course

Learn more >


Sansai 6-Outlet Power Board + 4-Port USB Charging Station

Learn more >



Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?