Monday, March 10, 2008

Limits to all you can eat

At my favorite Panera bakery location, I get nice atmosphere, good (if slightly premium priced) baked goods, and unlimited free Wi-Fi. For the past two years, my co-author and I have been writing our book here (which is why I got up before sunrise today).

The only limit on the Wi-Fi is the length of my battery (about 90 minutes on my 6-year-old TiBook). Today I may be heading from Cupertino to Stanford for a lunchtime talk, so I packed my power adaptor. (Update 1:30pm: never made it).

However, Panera has covered all the power plugs near where I normally sit. Closer inspection shows that half (but not all) of the plugs in the store are covered.

Sure enough, talking to the clerk, this is part of a deliberate strategy to keep people moving in at least part of the restaurant. One Panera I tried in Encinitas had wall-to-wall road warriors who made it their home office, so I can see why it’s needed.

Salad bars excepted, you-can-eat restaurants usually aren’t very good. Panera doesn’t offer all-you-can-eat food, so I'm hoping that their all-you-can-surf Wi-Fi and atmosphere will remain good, even if I’m on my own for power.

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