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Panera "Gets It"

John Federico

Panera Bread is my new favorite place. Why?

In addition to having great food, great espresso and a nice atmosphere, the smart marketers at Panera now provide Free Wi-Fi connectivity at all their stores, both corporate and franchisee locations.

If there's a Panera nearby, you'll find me there for lunch before anywhere else.

Why are they smart marketers? Well, not just for the obvious use of the word FREE, which is displayed on a big vinyl banner below the signage. (Although I'm sure that gets people's attention.)

I sometimes sit for hours at a Panera having lunch, espresso, bottled water and whatever else suits me at the time. I would think that I'm not the only person spending more time (and more money) while sitting in a Panera, using the free net connection.

However, it's not just the availability of food that incites a purchase, oh no. It's good old fashioned guilt.

That's right. Guilt. Or, better said, a feeling of obligation.

See, I like free wi-fi. (What mobile professional wouldn't?) But I know that if Panera isn't successful in offering it, they'll stop. So, it's my duty to make sure I pay my "rent" while I'm taking up space for 2 to 3 hours at a time in one of their booths. It's only fair.

Maybe that's just me. Maybe most people just don't care about a fair value exchange, but I doubt it.

I think that people will use the real estate (and connectivity) and pay fairly for its use, in food.