Starbucks Starts Wi-Fi Debates, Breakfast Battles Heat Up

Local coffee shopAll the news this week about Starbucks changing wi-fi service providers and offering anyone with a Starbucks Card two free hours of wi-fi access has started a fresh dialogue surrounding wireless Internet access. That is, your local independent coffee houses are jumping up and down saying, “Hey! The wi-fi is free (and always has been) over here!”

As you may know, independent coffee shops have long offered wi-fi as an attractant for business people, road warriors, and web workers to get them in the door. For the longest time, many coffee drinkers and wi-fi seekers chose the independent houses because getting online used to cost $6-$10 an hour at Starbucks.

When asked about whether he felt the independents would lose out on business with Starbucks recent announcement, David Blumenfeld of Boingo replied, “Many patrons of the smaller coffeehouses will continue to support their local shop due to loyalty, unique surroundings versus corporate giant, community support, convenience of location, etc.,” he said. “Any customer losses may also be offset simply because there continues to be so much more demand for Wi-Fi access in general.”

I would agree with Blumenfeld. The people who go to the independents go there because it’s in the neighborhood and because it’s a part of their routine. These customers are accustomed to their local coffee houses and will continue to patronize the same coffee houses they’ve been going to for years.

The business traveler, however, is more likely to stop into Starbucks based on familiarity with the national brand and because of Starbucks ubiquitous presence nationwide.

Battling for your breakfast dollars:

Boingo and Wayport, two of the major wi-fi subscription services our readers may be familiar with, made an announcement this week that will allow Boingo subscribers to use Wayports hotspots at McDonald’s restaurants. By doing so, Boingo is adding to it’s already 100,000 locations. There are 9,000 Wayport enabled McDonald’s restaurants, as reported by Computer World.
The battle for your business at breakfast time has been increasingly interesting, namely because Starbucks and McDonald’s are in a heated battle to attract your dollars in the morning. McDonalds recently started serving gourmet coffee, prompting Starbucks to respond by serving breakfast items (but just announced they would halt breakfast sandwich services).

Now, with Starbucks card holders getting 2 hours of free wi-fi, the Boingo announcement has McDonald’s hoping business customers will stop into McDonalds for their morning cup o’ joe and a hot cup of coffee.

(Image credit: Flickr user Dan)