Restaurants have never been just about the food. The décor, the service, the ambience all matter – and, these days, so does the wifi provision.
Restaurants need good wifi to connect payment terminals to the till and, increasingly, to get orders to the kitchen.
Guest networks matter too: a free wifi service can persuade customers to choose one restaurant over another, attract new customers and burnish the brand – it’s a good deal easier to Instagram your meal or write a review with wifi to connect you easily to all your social networks!
So when First Line installed a new wifi system at one of Shake Shack’s London restaurants, it wasn’t long before all the others in the chain started asking for their own … with the result that First Line has just finished installing a single wifi system covering all eight sites.
First Line IT has built a ‘roaming’ wifi system, which cancels out black spots and means that neither staff nor guests have to sign into a new network in each restaurant. Rather than a single wifi ‘hub’, there are numerous wifi broadcasters in each venue, and you connect seamlessly as you move out of the range of one and into the range of another.
Some retailers may feel a bit nervous at the idea of having 100s of customers perpetually able to connect with their wifi without having to enter a password. But First Line Technical Director Nim Nagalingam explains that there are actually two networks within the wifi service, and never the twain shall meet.
‘The two different networks use the same wifi devices, but they are separate and have different passwords,’ he said. ‘We have isolated the “guest” network so that users are completely blocked from accessing the “admin” wifi that connects all the tills and back-office systems. If necessary we could turn one off completely without affecting the other.’
Shake Shack’s wifi is operated from a server in First Line’s data centre in Oxford. This makes it easy to control – a new password can be applied to all eight locations at the same time, for example. But it is also connected to First Line’s 24/7 monitoring systems – and that means that problems can be spotted and fixed very quickly.
‘If one device goes down we immediately get a notification email, so an engineer can start work on diagnosing the problem,’ said Nim.
If First Line can install a new wifi system for a restaurant chain in central London, they can install one anywhere. Site support engineer Richard Woodwards had to work around opening times (no one wants to eat a burger while engineers are installing devices in the ceiling above them) and navigate London’s unforgiving parking policies. He couldn’t bring equipment with him but had to hire it for each restaurant, coordinating delivery and collection to the minute so that vans did not clog up the streets.
‘The logistical side of the project was almost more impressive than the technical,’ said Nim.