Wining In Your Bar With Wi-Fi Marketing

Bar & Restaurant WiFi Marketing
Photo: Shutterstock/ Art_Photo.

Have you ever signed up for one of those newsletters that you see on bar and restaurant websites so they can market to you?

Me either.

Almost every restaurant and bar website still has a newsletter sign-up form somewhere on it, yet the public hasn’t actually trusted or used them in a decade. The bar industry for some reason tends to keep doing what every other competing bar or restaurant does just because “that’s how it’s done.” I see the same thing going on in social media every day with people using outdated methods or practices that just don’t work. But for some reason, bars look at their competition and think, “Well, if they’re doing it, I should be doing it too. Maybe they know something I don’t?”  Chances are they don’t, and the merry-go-round of useless marketing techniques continues.

What makes things worse is that the miniscule amount of data that actually is collected this way never really goes anywhere. Marketers often forget to actually send out an email blast to these people for multiple reasons. Sometimes they have nothing to say, or they can’t find the password to their Constant Contact or MailChimp account, or they just plain forget they are collecting this data in the first place.

Wi-Fi marketing has changed all that.

The Opportunity WiFi Marketing Offers 

These days if you’re not leveraging free Wi-Fi in exchange for a customer’s email address, phone number, or Facebook account, then you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. Not only do people use free Wi-Fi and are more than willing to give up their contact information in exchange to get online, but the customer already sitting in your bar is the most valuable person to be collecting this information from.

The people that are already aware of your bar or restaurant are true customers and not a “potential” visitor. They are not somebody who entered their email address via your website and lives five states away, or somebody who lives in the next town over but is nowhere near your target demographic. Leveraging existing customers and cultivating them into regulars is a hell of a lot cheaper and light years more effective than mindless online data collection.

Use free WiFi to gather customer data for marketing

Keep in mind—I do not get compensated by any of these companies to promote them. This is all based on personal opinion.

Bar WiFi Router Choices 

There are several Wi-Fi marketing routers available out there including Zenreach and Yelp WiFi (Yelp recently purchased a platform called Turnstyle Analytics and renamed it Yelp WiFi). Bar Restaurant Success has a Wi-Fi marketing feature built into their suite of products as well.

There is a new player in the market called CoGoBuzz, which allows you to market via Facebook, email, or text. So far this one looks like the most diverse. I am currently testing the platform out and like what I see so far. I will provide a full product review soon on

My go-to favorite is Zenreach because of their Smart Email feature. This feature allows automated emails to go out dictated by certain criteria. Yelp WiFi has a similar system, but I personally prefer the ease of Zenreach. For example, after a customer signs up the first time, it’s able to send an email out hours after their visit asking them how their experience was. It basically can be used as a reputation management tool in order to field any negative reviews or complaints before they end up on Yelp for the world to read.

Zenreach also has easily redeemable offers that cannot be fraudulently duplicated that you can send out to loyal customers, return customers, or lost customers. The redemption process is usually where everything traditionally goes wrong, and the customer ends up getting annoyed by the amount of hassle a simple offer usually creates.

The Zenreach redemption process cannot be any easier. The server or bartender just has to read the screen and do what it says. As long as the conditions for the offer are met, the server taps the “redeem” button on the customer’s phone, and the offer disappears, never to be used again. Do not forget the step of adding a button for this in your POS system to track redemptions. Don’t guess on how many were redeemed—know your numbers.

Zenreach can also capture customer’s birthdays and send out smart emails a week prior to the special day for a specific offer geared to getting large parties in for a special birthday celebration. Something like, “Free bottle of champagne for every 6 people in your party.” It sounds impressive but costs the bar under $20 in most cases to bring in a large party. No brainer.

The reason why I like smart emails is because it’s kind of a set-it-and-forget-it type of system. In my opinion, automated emails are typically a bad idea because you lose that personal touch, and they might come off robotic. With the Zenreach offers, you can create and word these however you’d like, and it’s up to their system to send these offers out at the right times, with the right conditions (that you choose), and with the right frequency. You’re hitting the most important customer at the most important time with the most important offer.

Photos: (top) Shutterstock/ Dean Drobot

Remember—don’t cheap out!  A “10% off your next tab over $100” offer is going to bring zero people in the door.  People will not abuse these offers if they are aggressive, so get aggressive.

Examples of offers that work are: “50% off” and higher, “2 for 1 entrees,” and “first round on the house.”

Zenreach also has a built-in email blast platform just like Constant Contact or MailChimp, so if you would also like to send a blast out to everybody in your database, this can be done through this system without third-party software. The best part is there is no “export/import” of email addresses—they’re already there.

Traditional email marketing has become a thing of the past in my opinion because not only does the quality of the emails collected usually not translate to people walking in the door, but the content of most email blasts is just plain awful.

Most email blasts end up in the spam folder or Google’s “promotions” tab anyway and never actually get seen in the first place. Because smart emails go out one-by-one instead of in bulk, they are way less likely to get flagged as spam.

Systems like this, however, get set up initially with default smart emails, which in my opinion are pretty worthless. For the smart emails to work, they have to be customized to your specific needs. A default email like, “Thank you for recently visiting _____ . For more info, check out our website here______,” is not going to bring people in the door.  The right offer aimed at the right customer will.

We often forget that marketing isn’t posting three to five times a week on social media, it isn’t making flyers for happy hour, and it isn’t taking selfies.  It’s about one thing and one thing only—increasing revenue.   

Wi-Fi marketing with systems like Zenreach, to me, are a no-brainer, and I recommend this service to all of my clients. Oftentimes, we fail to take advantage of leveraging the most valuable customer of all—the customer sitting right in front of us. Wi-Fi marketing allows us to do so with zero staff training and zero instructions for anybody to learn. Remember, a return customer is five times cheaper than attracting a new customer, so work smarter and not harder.


Shutterstock/ Sergey Peterman.

Erik Shellenberger has been in the restaurant and bar industry since he was 13 years old and worked for his mother in the food and beverage department at a ski resort. Since then, he has held every position from dishwasher to bartender to marketing director and everything in between. With a decade of corporate marketing experience, he has gone from student to teacher and now runs Bar Marketing Basics ( He has quickly grown his client base from his hometown of Scottsdale, AZ to across the nation with clients as far away as Caldwell, NJ.

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