published Friday, January 8th, 2010

Fast-food sites expand free Wi-Fi service


by Tamara Best
Audio clip

Stephanie Phillips

  • photo
    Staff Photo by Angela Lewis Ginny Barnes uses the wireless Internet at the Panera Bread on Gunbarrel Road on Tuesday.

Wi-Fi 101

* 1. Find a Wi-Fi hot spot (restaurant, bookstore, café, etc.)

* 2. Turn on your wireless network on your laptop.

* 3. Connect to the network for your specific hot spot. Some Wi-Fi hot spots may require you to submit information such as name, e-mail address and agree to a terms of service before being able to use the service.

* 4. Launch your browser.

* 5. Surf away! Be mindful that some Wi-Fi providers may have a time limit on how long the service can be used and rates that may apply.

* 6. Disconnect or log out from the service when you are finished.

Warning: Wi-Fi networks are not always secure. Be sure to use your laptop's firewalls when possible and avoid sharing sensitive personal information.

Free Wi-Fi on the menu around Chattanooga

McDonald's

4608 Highway 58, 3413 Amnicola Highway, 5410 Highway 153, 156 Browns Ferry Road, 6220 Lee Highway, 2017 Gunbarrel Road, 4829 Brainerd Road and 6401 Ringgold Road (1)

Wendy's

3104 S. Broad St., 1868 Dayton Blvd., 4500 Highway 58

Chick-fil-A

1804 Gunbarrel Road

Panera Bread

1810 Gunbarrel Road, 620 Northgate Mall and 417 Market St.

Krystal

307 Cherokee Blvd., 2304 E. 23rd St., 3407 Broad St., 3701 Rossville Blvd., 5401 Brainerd Road, 6119 Lee Highway and 7300 Shallowford Road

(1) A McDonald's official said these locations will have free service by the end of this month.

* This list offers a sample of area offerings.

Source: Web sites and the stores

This month McDonald's joins a growing list of fast-food restaurants offering free Wi-Fi service in an effort to enhance the customer experience.

"Free Wi-Fi allows us to provide service all day everyday and we understand that value now more than ever," said Ashlee Yingling, spokesperson for McDonald's. By the end of this month customers at 11,500 of the company's 14,000 U.S. restaurants will be able to use the W-Fi free of charge, she said.

Other fast-food chains including Chick-fil-A, Wendy's, Krystal and the bakery-cafe Panera Bread also offer the service for free. Representatives for the different companies all said the bottom line is enhancing the customer experience.

"Not a day goes by that we don't see someone camping out at our restaurants working," said Mark Baldwin, public relations consultant for Chick-fil-A. "The day has changed, people want to be accessible everywhere ... if they are willing to come in and eat a chicken biscuit we are willing to provide the service."

And while customers are provided with convenience, companies also benefit.

While representatives from several fast-food companies declined to comment on the return on investment received in food sales from offering the service, Donna Josephson, South region marketing director for Wendy's did acknowledge there is some trade off involved.

"Anything that enhances the total experience is beneficial financially," she said.

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