How to set up guest WiFi in your café or restaurant

Small Business Advice 27 February 2020
Man Working in Cafe

We’re a generation of internet users, with over 50 million people in the UK alone using smartphones across 2019. In fact, the ONS reported that among all adults, 84% use the internet ‘on the go’ and smartphones were the most common type of device used to access the internet throughout the whole of 2019.

It’s no surprise then that as a nation we’re conditioned to expect internet access everywhere we go, if not through our access to mobile 4G, but through public WiFi. After all, what is the point in ordering smashed avocado on toast, if you can’t update your Instagram story to tell everyone?

Why should I offer Guest WiFi?

People are busy, they need to access things on the move—whether that’s checking in for a flight, accessing their banking details or replying to important emails, there is no need to be static to tick off your to-do list. But often, to do things, requires caffeine… in an inviting café… with the perfect internet connection. 

So, if you’re a café owner, and you don’t offer your guest’s WiFi, not only could you be angering impatient millennials who want to refresh their Twitter, but you could be alienating a whole sector of cabin-fever stricken freelancers, ready to swap their four walls for a flat white. 

There are plenty of working cafés that pride themselves on being a hotspot for flexi-workers, offering large workspaces, plugs and a reliable WiFi connection. But even if you’re more of a traditional café, you don’t want to lose custom by not offering guests access to basic WiFi and a plug socket.

How to set up WiFi for your customers?

Depending on your business budget and how quickly you need to get WiFi set up, there are a few different options to choose from, each of which come with their own pros and cons.

Let customers on your WiFi router

At the most basic level, business owners can, at their own risk, let customers onto their own network with their own pre-existing equipment.

This is the cheapest option, but also the riskiest. It gives strangers direct access to your own data, therefore creating security risks to your business, which you may not be insured for. It also doesn’t cater for a high number of users and will inevitably make for a slow and unreliable connection speed.     

While using your own equipment isn’t recommended, if it’s needed as a temporary fix, café owners should adjust the security settings on their router to ensure a high level of encryption called WPA2- Personal security, at the very least. This will ensure that customers using the network are unable to see network traffic.

Purchase a new router and configure it for your guest network

Purchasing a router may sound like an easy enough task, but it requires slightly more thought if it means you’re going to be offering WiFi to a room full of customers all at once, as well as your staff. 

As a café or bar, you’ll naturally need to ensure that you have a solid internet connection for processing payments on your card machines, as well as utilising the cloud features of your EPoS. These things shouldn’t be compromised, so you’ll need to make sure you offer different access points with a high speed broadband.

Here are some tips for when your make your purchase:

  • Choose a business-class router, which allows you set up different access points (APs)
  • Ask if the router offers more than one Service Set Identifier (SSID), so you can create different WiFi IDs
  • Purchase a router with a Virtual Local Area Network (VLAN) which works alongside your SSIDs to configure different security protocols for each different ID
  • If you think you’ll want to create a hotspot for your WiFi, check your router is compatible with the relevant software

How to set up your guest network

Once you’ve purchased your new shiny router, now it’s time to set up a guest network. This is important as you can dictate important feature settings for each different access point. You will need to access your router settings, from there you should be able to:

  • Create separate local networks for staff, business and guests
  • Create an access point for each local network
  • Allocate a sensible section of bandwidth to each local network, ensuring that the one you use to process card transactions etc. is efficient (around 2-3MB), the rest can be reserved for the customer WiFi 
  • Set up some unique passwords for each access point, ensuring that your customer facing ones are easy to remember and related to your business
  • Test your WiFi access points to ensure they are secure and that your guest traffic is separate from your business EPoS traffic

Setting up a hotspot

Now that you’ve set up basic level guest networks, you may want to control the way your customers log onto your network, what details they need to know, and what details they need to input to do so. 

For example, you may want guests to read some terms and conditions before they access, or create security and privacy settings that block people from viewing adult or sensitive content on your premises. 

Alternatively, you could ask customers to input some personal data, such as their name, age and email address, so you can send them marketing updates such as offers. However, with new GDPR laws, you will need to ensure they have consented to opt-in to these, and they know what the data is being used for. 

There are two ways to set up a hotspot free for your guests: 

  1. Installing some software onto your router
  2. Purchasing separate hotspot hardware

Depending on your business requirements, these options can be an expensive add-on, with some hardware costing as much as £1,000. It’s worth considering how much you would gain from offering your customer’s a hotspot.

If you’re not charging your customers for WiFi, (like airports or train stations), then it may be the case that a hotspot is too much of an added luxury. In which case, it could be something you invest in later along the line, when you have a better idea of how your customers are using your services.

Security and speed

Once you’ve set your router up, you’ve configured all of your access points and allocated passwords and the relevant encrypted security, you’re ready to see your happy customers check their new likes, or crack on with a day’s work. 

However, it’s not enough to set up and forget. Security is always being compromised, so it’s good practice to change your WiFi passwords regularly, and check for updates on your software and encryption. 

If you’re going to change your café’s guest WiFi password, then it’s a good idea to avoid printing it on branded collaterals such as menus and posters, but instead, have it on a chalkboard somewhere visible.

 

At Paymentsense, we’re here to make lives easier for small businesses, you can read more of our tips and advice blogs here, or check out our full range of card payment solutions designed with you in mind.

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