Panera Bread Co.
is one of the newest food chains to announce that they’re deploying Wi-Fi access. Unlike many of the other companies that have announced plans for wireless networking access, however, Panera’s doing it for free.
Already the company has about 70 locations around the country where customers can come in, buy lunch, sit down and access an 802.11b-based wireless network through their laptop or Wi-Fi-equipped PDA. Panera plans to add another 60 spots to the list by the end of the year. Wi-Fi equipped bakery-cafes are outfitted with decals on the doors, and the company also
keeps a list
of which locations are already online.
Panera Bread chairman and CEO Ron Shaich called his company’s decision to deploy wireless networking “not a test,” but “a serious and real long-term commitment.” He said that his company is distancing itself from revenue-based models, and hopes to “more fully meet the needs” of “more sophisticated and diverse” customers.
Panera’s wireless network is managed through
wireless networking equipment and access via
QGO, a broadband-on-demand network service provider. Proxim’s ORiNOCO AP-2500 Access Points have been deployed at the Panera hot spots; QGO’s RADIUS-based authentication system is used to get Panera customers online.
Plans are in place to equip all remaining company-owned locations with free Wi-Fi. The company will offer the service to franchise locations that want to participate, also. Panera Bread expects that as it continues to expand, it may operate more than 1,000 hot spots; the company current has about 500 locations under the Panera Bread and St. Louis Bread Co. names.