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Brit's take: Forget Starbucks, give us free Wi-Fi in pubs

Posting in Cities

Our government may wish to deter us from our alcoholic, binge-drinking tendencies, but Punch Taverns intends to lure us into the pub with free Wi-Fi.

In Britain, finding a late-opening coffee shop, where you can use the Internet, work, and not look odd sitting on your own is quite the mission. However, with pubs quickly becoming multi-purpose establishments to combat increasing VAT and the shrinking spare cash in the U.K.'s general public pockets, they now often offer food, coffee, and if you're lucky, a snail-slow connection to check your email or social network, which can be the difference between customers or not on quiet weekday nights.

If U.K. pubs are going to survive in this kind of environment, they have to innovate and cater for a wider audience. During the day, when pubs are quieter and tend to lose out on trade to the plethora of chain coffee shops sprouting across cities, staff can often be left twiddling their thumbs looking hopefully at the door once the lunchtime food rush is over.

So how do you lure additional people in where there is probably more seating available than in coffee shops? Offer the same service -- or better.

That's why Punch Taverns, a major player in the U.K. pub scene, has announced a partnership with The Cloud to install free Wi-Fi into both its tenanted and leased pubs. The firm says that their research, gained through a trial period in several establishments, shows "high usage levels" during the day -- and of course, more customers, more revenue.

Punch Taverns will be providing the Wi-Fi free for two years to its licensees across 3,000 pubs, with an aim to complete the installation by the end of March this year.

Susan King, matriarch of the Derwent Arms in Osbaldwick, York, commented:

"I’ve had free Wi-Fi in the pub for just over two months and since it has been installed I've definitely seen the benefits. The pub is situated in a small village and the Wi-Fi has been a real help as everyone seems to be connected with the Internet nowadays. I see a lot of young people especially, coming in with smartphones and laptops and they tend to stay longer because they can use the Internet for free.

I would definitely recommend it for any pub business. In fact, I believe it is a necessity."

Punch is not the first pub company to do business with The Cloud. The Wi-Fi provider has secured deals in almost 9,000 pubs, including the popular Wetherspoons chain.

Image credit: Anne-Lise Heinrichs

— By on January 9, 2013, 9:11 PM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure