July 9, 2003, 12:00 AM

A hamburger, fries, and a side of Wi-Fi

McDonald’s offers food to go – but it hopes to bring more customers in with high-speed wireless web access, rolling out in San Francisco this week.

McDonald’s Corp. becomes the latest retail operation to offer high-speed wireless access as it rolls out the service in 75 McDonald’s restaurants around the San Francisco Bay area this week. The service will be available in both urban and suburban locations from San Rafael to San Jose, targeting what McDonald’s says is thousands of professional and student wi-fi users seeking to connect with work and family while in transit. The installation follows similar programs at Borders Books & Music, Kinko’s and Schlotzsky’s Deli, all of which have instituted wi-fi access in various markets within the past several months.

“We are extending McDonald’s rich history of offering customers service, convenience and value that correspond to their daily lives by adding wi-fi service to select restaurants around the Bay area. Today`s customer is more time-pressed than ever, and we think it`s important to meet the needs of busy professional and family lifestyles by offering services that are easy to use and relevant,” says Don Thompson, McDonald’s West Division president.

 

Wayport Inc., a major provider of high-speed Internet access in hotels and airports, will supply the service for the Bay area McDonald’s stores. The restaurant chain this spring tested high-speed wireless access in 10 of its New York City stores as part of its plan to offer wi-fi in several hundred McDonald’s restaurants by year-end. Selected New York and Chicago McDonald’s restaurants are expected to go live with the service next. Customers will be able to identify participating resturatns by signage that displays the company’s Golden Arches in the universal Internet @ symbol. The cost of a two-hour wireless Internet connection at those locations will be $4.95, with other options offered as well.

In December, Schlotzsky’s Deli reported survey data showing that 6% of its customers had come in mainly for wi-fi web access, resulting in increased food sales of about $100,000 in a single restaurant. Schlotzsky’s installed the service using its own IT staff at a cost of about $4,000 to $5,000 per location.

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