Wi-Fi Project Yields Longer Stays and More Profit at Texas Eatery

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At Roosevelt's at 7, an alehouse in McAllen, Texas, that serves American food and has more than 40 beers on tap, the lunch crowd has been increasing over the past several years. As more guests came in for a midday meal, they also logged on to the restaurant's Wi-Fi. 

The unprecedented number of customers logging on to the wireless internet, however, led to the Wi-Fi access point crashing last January. When the access point failed, Drew Lentz, a solutions architect at internet marketing service Frontera Consulting, got the call to drive out and help the restaurant.

Over the course of aiding Roosevelt's at 7's Internet system, Lentz worked with AirTight Networks, a secure cloud Wi-Fi company, to create a solution that yielded $60,000 per year of additional profit at the restaurant and a 10 percent month-over-month increase in visitors staying longer. Their innovation was a platform that scrapes guests' social media profiles, with their permission, to find and play their favorite songs within 15 minutes of entering the restaurant.

About three months before Lentz received the call to fix Roosevelt's Wi-Fi, he had watched a webcast that featured AirTight Networks, and had ordered AirTight's cloud-managed Wi-Fi device after watching the webcast. It arrived and promptly sat in his office for weeks without him ever taking it out of the box.

"I rolled out to Roosevelt's and thought this was the perfect opportunity to deploy this access point from AirTight," Lentz recalls. Upon implementation, he realized the device could detail who was coming into the restaurant, what time they came in, and how long they stayed. Using the new capabilities along with the improved Wi-Fi, Lentz says he and the restaurant operators realized about 40 percent of patrons visiting the restaurant between 6 and 11 p.m. spent less than 45 minutes at the location.

"That was kind of a bummer," Lentz says. "We wanted to figure out how to get them to stay for one more beer."

Music Encourages Guests to Linger

Initially, the restaurant made what Lentz calls "little" changes. Managers and servers entered the floor every five minutes to speak with guests rather than every eight. They encouraged guests with half-full glasses to order another beverage and made recommendations. While the increased interactions had some benefit, Lentz says he and the operators wanted to push into a direction that did not require servers to change their methods.

"This is what we came up with: Every time a guest walks into a restaurant, he expects a certain type of environment and music," Lentz says. "If you walk into a steakhouse, maybe you expect dim lighting, some mood music like Frank Sinatra in the background; if you walk into a roadhouse, you expect peanut shells on the floor, country music blaring from the speakers.

"We thought, wait a minute: What if we were able to take the musical choice of the people who were in the establishment at the time and dynamically create a playlist, based on those people, so they could hear what they want to while they're there?"

Lentz called AirTight and explained his idea, and the cloud Wi-Fi provider in turn helped him cultivate the notion and turn it into a marketable product. Together, they developed a platform called Scrape that reaches the guest management cloud service on one end and users' social media platforms on the other.

If a guest logs onto the WI-Fi at Roosevelt's at 7 and opts in using Facebook or another social media profile, the service will prompt the user and ask whether it can access his music. If the user answers yes—and Lentz says not 100 percent of guests do, as many are still timid about giving out personal information—Scrape will reach in and pull out any music service to which the user has provided access, such as Spotify, Pandora, LastFM, or YouTube.

"When you walk into the restaurant, our whole goal was that you would hear one of your favorite songs in the first 15 minutes," Lentz says.

Behavioral changes such as these can yield true monetization, says Anita Pandey, vice president of global marketing at AirTight Networks, which won an innovation award for this project last fall at the Cloudys, an award for industries in the cloud channel.

With the music innovation in place, guests began staying for that extra beer. During the course of 2014, month over month, the restaurant saw a 10 percent increase in visitors staying longer, and their increased stays netted an additional $60,000 in profit for Roosevelt’s at 7 in a year.

By Sonya Chudgar

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