TGI Friday’s to deploy free Bluetooth broadband in restaurants

24 Sep 2009

A technology company that enables mobile phone owners to surf the internet via their Bluetooth connection is to deploy the technology at TGI Friday’s restaurants around Ireland to give customers free internet access.

BlueZone Media has agreed to a deal with restaurant chain TGI Friday’s to supply free internet access in each of the chain’s four restaurants nationwide.

The service enables anyone with a Bluetooth mobile phone to surf the web for free and has been selected by TGI Friday’s after a successful trial in their Dundrum restaurant. TGI Friday’s St Stephen’s Green, Blanchardstown and Blackrock in Dublin as well as Victoria Square in Belfast will offer the service.

As Bluetooth mobile phones are now nearly ubiquitous, the service allows more customers to enjoy the benefits of the BlueZone service than a standard WiFi-enabled hotspot.

To date, statistics from the service show that one in four diners in TGI Friday’s Dundrum are using it, with a large number checking Facebook and searching Google. The technology has also been used to broadcast special offers from the restaurant, helping to increase footfall by reaching customers within an 80-metre radius. 

“Being able to browse the internet on the go is now as important as being able to make calls on the go, as so much of our lives are led online,” TGI Friday’s marketing manager Liz Gale explained.

“We’ve had people chatting with friends over IM, updating their Facebook and even checking their CAO offers in TGI Friday’s. The great advantage of the BlueZone device is that it allows the vast majority of our customers to enjoy a quick browse while they eat, without the need for a laptop.”

BlueZone has supplied the service in locations as diverse as restaurants and car dealerships, with companies eager to offer free services to expand footfall on retail premises and it has been nominated for Fleet Magazine’s transport innovation award for their work in providing free internet on buses across the country.

“Facebook revealed that they are now expecting their 1 millionth Irish member within three months and that the average user spends 30 minutes per day on the site,” Bluezone managing director Kevin O’Connor explained.

“As Facebook and other social networking sites continue to grow in popularity so to will public demand to access them wherever they are,” O’Connor said.

The technology from BlueZone Media works by broadcasting broadband over a Bluetooth network, created using a very small router. Mobiles with Bluetooth turned on are prompted to download a custom web browser. The browser functions similarly to those on PCs and enables users to view a selection of sites in a condensed form, free of charge.

“This might bode badly for table manners but people are increasingly co-ordinating their lives on Facebook and Bebo, so browsing them in a restaurant is as normal as taking a call at dinner,” Gale added.

By John Kennedy

Photo: BlueZone Media is working to enable customers to receive free internet access at TGI Fridays restaurants around Ireland.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years