Fast food chain McDonald's is about to roll out a free Wi-Fi service across its 1,200 outlets in the UK and claims it will make the company the largest provider of free wireless internet access in the country.
The move is in line with the McDonald's strategy to shift the brand into a more upmarket space, currently occupied by trendy coffee bars such as Starbucks. Last year the company commenced refurbishing 200 choice sites with a more muted green-and-yellow colour scheme, instead of the traditional red and yellow. The interiors were also upgraded with designer furnishings. At the same time, the company has diversified and augmented its menu to include healthy options.
It is hoped the Wi-Fi service will attract more business users into McDonald's outlets, but chief information officer Ivan Brooks said the company expects its existing customer base to respond to the service too. It estimates a regular hotspot user who pays to log on for an hour per week will save as much as £260 per year on premium Wi-Fi charges.
McDonald's already has a relationship with BT Openzone and retains the carrier as a telecoms partner, but has also signed up The Cloud as a hotspot access provider.
Brooks said: "The service will benefit existing customers but it will also attract new customers. It's an important change that allows McDonald's to retain its relevance in the market. On top of that, it's an asset for the country. People don't know where to go for free mobile internet access."
But Brooks denies the move is a direct response to the popularity of café bars such as Starbucks. "It's not a response, it's about doing right by our customers," he said.