Close up of homemade mini burgers with stew beef, tomatoes and basil on wooden background, Modern delicious fast food, Low angle view. (Photo by: Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
How Panera Helped Inspire Free Restaurant Wi-Fi
By Camryn Teder
If you've ever ventured out of your home or office to get some work done at a coffee shop or bistro, you probably have Panera Bread to thank for that luxury. According to Panera Bread's website, it was founder Ron Shaich who began to realize that what his customers actually wanted was not just tasty baked goods, but a gracious and inviting atmosphere.
As Panera Bread eased into the 2000s, the company recalls that it "invested in the customer experience — things like design and WiFi, which encouraged guests to linger — and turned Panera into a gathering place." Then, the company decided to introduce a revolutionary concept: free Wi-Fi in its cafes.
In a bid to boost sales amid the low-carb diet era, the SEC reveals that Panera Bread became the "largest provider of free Wi-Fi access" in America in 2004, adding the special bonus to at least 600 of its locations. The idea was so successful that it boosted Panera Bread sales by 15% soon after it was implemented.
In the following years, the network was almost overloaded with nearly 2.7 million Panera customers connecting each month. After seeing the success Panera Bread experienced with its free Wi-Fi, many big chains followed suit: Starbucks and even McDonald's started to offer the service a few years after Panera and soon, free Wi-Fi started to pop up everywhere.