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McDonalds Free Wi-Fi Users Soak Up Seating 500

bfire writes "McDonalds has earmarked potential changes to seating plans in some restaurants to prevent free Wi-Fi users from monopolizing seating, particularly in peak periods. The availability of Wi-Fi means people are now spending 35 minutes in McDonalds — rather than the average ten minutes that patrons used to spend eating there. But it appears not everyone is happy with the increased 'stickiness' of customers, with some licensees in Australia reporting that Wi-Fi users aren't turning over seats fast enough. The restaurant chain is considering options including space demarcation to deal with the problem."


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McDonalds Free Wi-Fi Users Soak Up Seating

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  • by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @11:48PM (#27933071) Homepage

    I once heard that the reason McDonald's used to outfit its restaurants with hard plastic bench seats colored garish orange and yellow was for that reason -- so you wouldn't want to stick around too long. Has it changed its mind recently?

  • well.... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by R.Morton ( 1540993 ) <> on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @11:50PM (#27933095)

    What did they think would happen ?, of course people are going to stay longer maybe add more seating or extend the range to cover a larger area so users could sit in their cars and use the WIFI there.

    Just a thought


  • by fermion ( 181285 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @11:56PM (#27933139) Homepage Journal
    At someplace like starbucks, where one has a reasonable chance of receiving $5 for $.20 of product, low overhead, few employees, WiFi makes sense. The same hold true for many other places where table turnover is closer to an hour than a few minutes.

    I never understood what was the point of putting these things in places where turnover is a few minutes. It encourages loitering. It is not like customers pay for refills, or are otherwise likely to buy more product.

    Of course the solution is simple. Do what other places are doing. Limit the time. If they want turnover in 10 minutes, make that the time limit. The point stands, though. WiFi in places like this just seems silly. OTOH, I know of places that have gone out of business after they got rid of the WiFi. They did not like hanging around in the afternoon drinking coffee, but those same people also stopped coming around for the evening meal.

  • by vkapadia ( 35809 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @11:58PM (#27933159)
    Consumer Reports would disagree with that harsh assessment:

    The magazine reported that McDonald's was "decent and moderately strong. Although it lacked the subtle top notes needed to make it rise and shine, it had no flaws."

    That said, everyone is entitled to their opinion.

  • McWiFi??? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @12:00AM (#27933193) Homepage

    Last time I saw McWiFi, it was Windows only and needed some sort of login. I run Linux so no McWiFi for me...

  • by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @12:11AM (#27933259) Homepage Journal

    It seems to me that they could have a system set up such that you buy something and you can request a code for minutes of WiFi, maybe every dollar you spend on their product gets you a bonus of five minutes internet time. A combo would be half an hour. That way you don't get the people that just buy a coffee (or even not even buy anything) and stick around for an hour. That should cut the average time down and free up the seats.

    I think I've heard of some shops turning off WiFi during rush hours simply because they don't have enough seats and would end up losing customers because people that want what they're selling end up going elsewhere.

  • by hacker ( 14635 ) <> on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @12:18AM (#27933307)

    PANERA Bread already solved this problem. If you go to a PANERA during peak hours, you get roughly 10-15 minutes of free WiFi, and then you're shut off, at the MAC address level. Thankfully, I have GNU macchanger [] installed, so I can grab some more time, but they're already doing it programatically.

    What's funny is watching someone come in, spill out their entire office on the table (manila file folders, laptop, external number pad and everything), and then get shut off because they sat chatting at the coffee machine for 10 minutes while their laptop was connected, and shut their laptop down, only to stare at me working for 30+ minutes at a time.

    Am I breaking the rules? Maybe... but I also buy a breakfast, then a tea, then a lunch in the same 1-2 hours I'm there. I also have WWAN, so if WiFi was turned off, I could still continue to work, without changing anything (all built-in).

    McDonalds should just limit the free wifi to 10-15 minutes and be done with it. Oh, and also SHUT IT OFF at the end of the night, so people don't just park in the parking lot and steal your wifi for nefarious means.

    As with most of these "problems", the solution is rarely technical. It is usually a political problem that stops the solution from being implemented.

  • by shanen ( 462549 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @12:20AM (#27933321) Homepage Journal

    No brainer--but we are talking about McDonalds, aren't we?

    Announce a policy of turning off the WiFi when the McDonalds is too full, and post a schedule of the normal times when free access is available. No skin off their noses if they have some extra customers when there are empty seats, eh?

    Since this is McDonalds, I feel obliged to note that the nose skin goes into the hot dogs. Does McDonalds serve hot dogs? That's how long it's been since I've eaten there... Wait! Sausage. I'm pretty sure they had some kind of morning sausage, and they can use the nose skin for the sausage. I'm pretty sure--but even more sure that I don't want to know for sure. No one wants to know the truth about sausage.

    Actually, I read a couple of books about fast food a few years ago, and these days I don't eat at many fast food places. Must be a coincidence, eh?

  • Simple solution (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @12:31AM (#27933401)

    A simple solution : print an access code on tickets you receive when buying some food. Should only be unique and valid for a couple of minutes. Access code expired ? Buy more stuff or get the hell out ! Solved.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @12:39AM (#27933471)

    SHUT IT OFF at the end of the night, so people don't just park in the parking lot and steal your wifi for nefarious means.

    Uh, no. I reward places that offer free wifi with my patronage, and having the ability to swing by and look up directions or retrieve an email with instructions after hours is a beneficial service. They are no more or less likely to be able to do anything about "nefarious means" when they are open, so what exactly is the purpose of turning off the service?

    On the other hand, intentionally bypassing the timing limitations, especially when you don't need the service in the first place, is not "maybe" wrong. It's just wrong. They offer variable timing for quality of service reasons as well as to cut down on loitering and people using their resources to torrent and the like. You're receiving a service with terms. Honor them. It's called integrity.

  • Re:Simple Solution (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @12:53AM (#27933593) Homepage Journal
    My wife has an architecture business. One of her customers (a cafe owner) treated us to a free meal. When we sat down my wife shifted in her seat and congratulated the owner on the uncomfortable seats. Apparently he had gone through a few iterations on seats to make sure that people didn't stay too long.

    I worked with him for a bit on a proposal for wifi for customers, but I don't think it would have been good for them in retrospect.
  • by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @12:56AM (#27933615) Homepage Journal
    Now that cellular broadband is becoming cheap, public wifi may be on the way out anyway.
  • by everynerd ( 1252610 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @01:03AM (#27933667)

    I think the idea behind the free wi-fi is not to keep people there longer, but to promote return visits. However it appears they ARE staying longer, and a "restaurant" like McDonalds can't cater to the lazy surfer. If it were seated area where customers were waited on and expected to order, this would likely not be an issue.

    You're right though, McDonalds has brought this on themselves, but they're well within their rights to axe it just as quickly if it doesn't produce the expected results.

  • by ring-eldest ( 866342 ) <> on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @01:18AM (#27933731)

    How about disabling the wi-fi during peak times when serving food becomes priority #1? You could even post a nice little sign saying something like: "In order to better service you, free Wi-Fi is available from XX:XX to YY:YY."

    Or, you know, making the access available with purchases only, for a set period of time according to dollar amount spent. How about 15 minutes for every 5 dollars, with access codes printed right on the receipt? That seems to solve the problems of everyone worth mentioning. Hell they might even make money off the deal (but that's evil and wrong, amirite?)

  • Re:Simple Solution (Score:5, Interesting)

    by QuantumG ( 50515 ) * <> on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @01:22AM (#27933757) Homepage Journal

    Oh. My. God. You mean they make food out of chemicals? That's bad. That's really bad.

    No, but seriously, Eric Schlosser is an uneducated hippie. Oh, but he studied History at Princeton.. woo..

    McDonald's fries now come from huge manufacturing plants that can peel, slice, cook, and freeze two million pounds of potatoes a day. [..] A McDonald's french fry is one of countless foods whose flavor is just a component in a complex manufacturing process. The look and the taste of what we eat now are frequently deceiving -- by design.

    Dum da dah!!! Yes, that's right folks, McDonald's food is manufactured. That's a dirty word. Only bad, terrible things come out of factories.. like child labor. If food is not made in small quantities by your Mom then it has to be bad for you. It has to be.

    Everywhere I looked, I saw famous, widely advertised products sitting on laboratory desks and tables. The beverage lab was full of brightly colored liquids in clear bottles. It comes up with flavors for popular soft drinks, sports drinks, bottled teas, and wine coolers, for all-natural juice drinks, organic soy drinks, beers, and malt liquors. In one pilot kitchen I saw a dapper food technologist, a middle-aged man with an elegant tie beneath his crisp lab coat, carefully preparing a batch of cookies with white frosting and pink-and-white sprinkles. In another pilot kitchen I saw a pizza oven, a grill, a milk-shake machine, and a french fryer identical to those I'd seen at innumerable fast-food restaurants.

    That's right folks. Food technologists (scientists!) are responsible for the tastes in all these manufactured foods. They're making stuff taste good.. evil bastards!

    It also makes the smells of household products such as deodorant, dishwashing detergent, bath soap, shampoo, furniture polish, and floor wax. All these aromas are made through essentially the same process: the manipulation of volatile chemicals. The basic science behind the scent of your shaving cream is the same as that governing the flavor of your TV dinner.

    Yes, he is implying that you're eating deodorant and dishwashing detergent and floor wax. No. He didn't actually say that shaving cream is in your TV dinner, but he wants you to think about it.

    A typical artificial strawberry flavor, like the kind found in a Burger King strawberry milk shake, contains the following ingredients: amyl acetate, amyl butyrate, amyl valerate, anethol, anisyl formate, benzyl acetate, benzyl isobutyrate, butyric acid, cinnamyl isobutyrate, cinnamyl valerate, cognac essential oil, diacetyl, dipropyl ketone, ethyl acetate, ethyl amyl ketone, ethyl butyrate, ethyl cinnamate, ethyl heptanoate, ethyl heptylate, ethyl lactate, ethyl methylphenylglycidate, ethyl nitrate, ethyl propionate, ethyl valerate, heliotropin, hydroxyphenyl-2-butanone (10 percent solution in alcohol), a-ionone, isobutyl anthranilate, isobutyl butyrate, lemon essential oil, maltol, 4-methylacetophenone, methyl anthranilate, methyl benzoate, methyl cinnamate, methyl heptine carbonate, methyl naphthyl ketone, methyl salicylate, mint essential oil, neroli essential oil, nerolin, neryl isobutyrate, orris butter, phenethyl alcohol, rose, rum ether, g-undecalactone, vanillin, and solvent.

    Scary words!!! Scary words!!! The article doesn't mention that "natural" flavors don't come with lists of ingredients.. you simply don't know what's in them. But here's a hint, if "natural strawberry flavoring" was made from strawberries, they would just list "strawberries" as an ingredient.

    THE small and elite group of scientists who create most of the flavor in most of the food now consumed in the United States are called "flavorists." They draw on a number of disciplines in their work: biology, psychology, physiology, and organic chemistry.

    These are all things you don't understand, and he used

  • Re:Simple Solution (Score:2, Interesting)

    by icannotthinkofaname ( 1480543 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @01:31AM (#27933811) Journal

    Oh. My. God. You mean they make food out of chemicals?

    Yes. It's worked for thousands of years, and I bet chemicals could keep our bodies in tip-top shape for a few more centuries (if we choose to use them wisely). After all, no one has yet had any better ideas.

    I'd very much like someone to come up with a method of making foods from non-chemicals, and see how it works out.

  • Wrong headline. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Alsee ( 515537 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @01:55AM (#27933913) Homepage

    Business offers customers free wifi, which has the twin effects of attracting more customers and some of them staying longer. This is news? In other breaking news headlines, water is wet!

    What caught my eye was the last two paragraphs of the article:

    The wifi service is backed by a secure internet gateway product from wholesaler earthwave called Clean Pipes, which is there in part to apply McDonalds' Family Friendly policies to the service.

    It had so far not detected any major 'red flag' sessions that had to be reported to law enforcement authorities, a representative of earthwave said.

    Why isn't the news story here that McDonalds has a program in place to spy on customer's wifi usage, to get customers arrested?

    If my phone company were eaves dropping on my conversations to report to the police, I would have a problem with that.
    If my ISP were eaves dropping on my internet phone calls or other communications to report to the police, I would have a problem with that.

    If a company is offering free wifi connections, obviously the standards are somewhat different than dealing with my own phone company or my own ISP, however I still consider it outrageous and a primary news item that a company *does* have a program in place to spy on communications over their free wifi, one dedicated to having those customers arrested.


  • Re:Coffee (Score:3, Interesting)

    by master5o1 ( 1068594 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @02:29AM (#27934095) Homepage
    It could also refer all pages to one of those Hot Spot login pages that most have to first enable the internet. I would assume than it would be safer to not refer SSL ones to their as to allow them to finish what ever it is in SSL... But then that's an awesome loophole for SSL proxies, etc.
  • Re:Simple solution (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wvmarle ( 1070040 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @05:06AM (#27934871)

    I think having to go to the counter every 30 mins gets old quickly for the customer. It is irritating. This way it's great for a normal session (I can imagine very much using such a service when on business trip to read e-mail and reply some urgent matters, 30 mins is usually enough for that - otherwise just get a second ticket to finish your work), but not for WiFi camping in that shop for hours.

    This sounds like a creative and smart solution to me. And I am not surprised it works very well.

  • Re:Simple Solution (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jonadab ( 583620 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @07:33AM (#27935495) Homepage Journal
    Honestly, McDonald's doesn't really need the WiFi to attract customers. They have one of the most pervasive advertising campaigns known to humanity (and I don't just mean television, but everything: tv, radio, internet, local newspapers, pitchers of orange punch at little league games and family reunions, every sporting event up to and including the Olympics, billboards on every highway in North America, ...) and also they somehow manage to position their restaurants so that they are almost always ON THE WAY to wherever you are going, especially if you're in a hurry. And they sign all the most lucratively popular toy and movie and tv character promotions, not to mention that periodic Monopoly thing, which *really* gets the customers coming back, for reasons I do not entirely understand.

    On the other hand, I also don't see what the big deal is with people sticking around too long in the dining room. 80% of their business is drive-through anyway, and 90% is breakfast and lunch, when people are in a hurry. McDonald's does more business between 11:30 and 12:30 than they do from 2pm to closing. Their dining rooms typically sit empty in the evenings, when people would have time to sit around.
  • Re:Coffee (Score:3, Interesting)

    by PeeAitchPee ( 712652 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @08:18AM (#27935791)

    I suggest the United States McDonalds keep doing what they already do: make the store environment resemble that of a public LIBRARY

    There, fixed that for you.

  • Re:Simple Solution (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hal2814 ( 725639 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @08:25AM (#27935859)

    Have they been remodeling the McDonalds in your area? They have in ours. They're completely demolishing and rebuilding them. You know what is missing from the new ones? Playgrounds. 4 McDonalds in our area have lost their playgrounds in the past two or three years. IMHO, McDonalds is kid-friendly no more. At least we still have Chik-fil-a around here. They have playgrounds, are about as healthy as fast food will ever get, and have a kid night where children get a free ice cream cone.

  • by AdamWeeden ( 678591 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @08:57AM (#27936179) Homepage
    I'm no nutritionist, but I've always understood the term "empty calories" in a slightly different way then you are using it. Empty calories, in the way it has been explained to me, doesn't refer to the nutritional value per calorie, but more in the ability to satisfy appetite per calorie. For example a large salad will fill you up with a relatively small amount of calories. A bottle of soda (non-diet) is likely to have more calories, and will fill you up less (if at all). Thus the soda is considered empty calories because you have consumed calories without impacting your hunger, which causes you to consume more calories.
  • Re:Coffee (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pak9rabid ( 1011935 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @10:16AM (#27937303)

    Or a slightly less pathological solution which would nevertheless fix the issue: Simply record MAC addresses and after 15 minutes (or whatever) of use, ban the address for a couple of hours. Sure, a few of us will spoof MAC addresses until we find an unbanned one but the vast majority (and it's the vast majority's asses that are causing the problem) will just mooch off to a different Maccas.

    Having worked for the company that runs McDonalds wifi networks, they most certainly do record the MAC addresses of everyone that uses their wifi network. This is how it keeps track of who's allowed through their firewall and who's not. They just need to decrease their connection time from 2 hours if they're really concerned about this.

  • Re:Simple Solution (Score:1, Interesting)

    by stillnotelf ( 1476907 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @11:19AM (#27938269)
    My high school did this. The chairs were extremely uncomfortable rock-hard plastic, not molded to sit well (they were slightly convex rather than concave). They were also balanced so that you couldn't tilt backwards in them. The idea was that you'd HAVE to sit up straight, and couldn't fall asleep very easily given the awfulness of the chair. It was a brilliant decision by the administrators...
  • Re:Simple Solution (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @12:09PM (#27939031)

    Dum da dah!!! Yes, that's right folks, McDonald's food is manufactured. That's a dirty word.

    As usual, you miss the point. And you do it in the most loud and proud fashion too.

    As I said originally, food is more than just the list of nutrients. A list that only measures a very small part of the complexity.

    So McDonalds is manufactured out of the absolutely cheapest possible materials that are still edible and flavoring is added to make people think the food is of a higher quality than it is. Big deal you scream with bold words in a bold font. You like cardboard with corn oil and flavors, its freaking great!

    Who cares if the means of storage and preparation are chosen for their cost-effectiveness and not their ability to maintain any of the complex carbohydrates, phytochemicals (oh shit, he said chemicals!), polyunsaturated oils, monounsaturated fats, etc that are normally found in higher quality, hand-prepared foods. As long as it tastes good!

    I wish I could live in that world where science even makes food taste better! But that was an era when the atom was your friend and we were going to conquer space.

    Gee, the universe turned out to be quite a bit more complicated than Popular Science made it out to be.
    You are welcome to go back to believing that "duck and cover" will keep you safe though.

  • Re:Coffee (Score:2, Interesting)

    by misexistentialist ( 1537887 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @01:38PM (#27940487)
    Most of them are terminally mentally ill. So either you provide resources to feed them elsewhere, exterminate them, or tolerate them in public. Since you sound like one of the people who bitch about "entitlement" programs and BMW-driving schizophrenic welfare-queens, I'm guessing you'll choose option 2.

When you make your mark in the world, watch out for guys with erasers. -- The Wall Street Journal