The newest Hartman brief on strengthening your restaurant's brand begins by noting the importance of creating a community space where customers feel welcome to hold meetings. As an example, Hartman highlights free Wi-Fi service. My local coffee shop, Zoka Coffee Roasters in Green Lake, is an amazing gathering space. People have different places to sit - couches, group tables, nooks and crannies - and a nice cork board for community postings. The baristas are friendly and knowledgeable and the music is diverse but not esoteric. And there used to be free Wi-Fi. Last week Zoka decided to put limitations on internet access. In order to log in to their server, you now have to get a receipt at the register with a code. The code is valid for 2 hours, after which you are unceremoniously booted off the web.
I asked a barista about the policy change. She told me that they made the change to reduce the server load and make sure that folks aren't just hanging around without buying anything. The server issue extended outside of the cafe's walls; it turns out that neighbors and neighboring businesses were using the service everyday. The high traffic was crashing the modem and impacting page load speeds.
So now I go every evening (I'm in my final week of an MBA program) and diligently make a purchase every 2 hours. The place is lonely though as some of my more frugal classmates have opted to jump ship to other cafes that offer free Wi-Fi. Also, each time I get a code it comes on a little receipt. I've noticed that the receipts get scattered everywhere in the cafe. It is an unsightly reminder (not to mention wasteful) of my new, more financial relationship with my community coffee house.