Panera Bread is one of the few coffee retailers that actually offer customers free Internet access and I can’t even tell you how much I feel endeared to the brand because of this. But I also know Panera is giving free Internet in hopes of getting me to buy more stuff (which, I don’t think I really do) so it’s quite natural for Panera to not like Internet users who buy one cup of coffee with free refills for $1.69 and then spend hours surfing the net.
According to compete.com, 313,839 people use the Panera WIFI every month making it the 5,961st most popular site in the world (I wonder if the management team at Panera is aware of this!). The way I see it Panera is experiencing all the pains of providing great service without any of the benefits. How do we use the service to dramatically enhance brand experience? Historically, coffee shops have been places where people of diverse backgrounds converged to discuss things so why doesn’t Panera allow it’s customers to discuss topics online? The WIFI login page could have a list of topics ranging from politics to dating where people could post messages and even chat with other Panera patrons all over the country. Sure, some people will misuse the service and sit around longer but I believe overall it will only enhance the Panera brand.