Dear Greenville Panera,
This isn't the post I was originally writing. The post I was originally writing got lost when you cut off my internet, thanks a bunch.
Look, I understand that you're probably worried about people sitting around taking up tables and not buying anything. Not that I've ever walked into a Panera and decided not to order because it seemed full, but maybe it happens. Having a bunch of free-riders who didn't buy anything but sit around on their laptops for hours is probably a pain for you guys - though I would argue that's the price you pay for offering (and advertising) free Wi-Fi.
So it makes sense to me that if people are by themselves taking up big tables, or not buying anything and only using the internet, you might want to discourage that. Where we disagree, is that the best way to do that is to not let anyone use the internet for more than half an hour between 11:30 and 1:30.
The goal is to free up tables for people eating lunch, right? Well about half the tables in the restaurant were free when you kicked me off, including 3 tables of four right next to me. I was sitting in one of the lounge chairs - you know, the ones people don't usually use for eating lunch? I was only taking up the single chair and part of the table next to it (which, by the way, was broken), leaving the other chair completely free for anyone else to use. In other words, I was as considerate as I possibly could have, both to the other customers and to you as a company.
I know this isn't a strict company-wide policy - I've been in at least 20 different Paneras across the country over the past few months, and only encountered a few that actually cut you off. Most just politely ask in a message when you sign on to limit yourself to 30 minutes if it's busy, and, if you're by yourself, to please not sit at a large table. I never sit at a large table (unless nothing else is open), and I don't usually stay around if it's really busy.
I probably wouldn't have been as upset if I hadn't spent my first half hour there trying to sign on to your internet, in vain. It wasn't until 11:30 (your supposed peak hours) that I was able to get any internet connection at all from you. So my reward for showing up before peak hours was... no productivity.
I had already purchased a coffee and bagel, and intended on purchasing lunch once I finished what I was working on. So I was, in a manner of speaking, paying my rent for that chair. And then you kicked me off the internet in the middle of my work - so I left. And you lost my business. I'm now sitting at Starbucks, haven already eaten lunch at P.F. Changs.
I will probably go to other Panera restaurants on this trip, but I will make it a point that if I'm there during "peak hours," I will first check if connectivity is limited before buying anything. And if it is, I'll go someplace else. I choose your restaurant because the food is good and you have free Wi-Fi so I can get things done - but if I'm not going to be able to get anything done, I might as well go someplace else for lunch and then hit up Starbucks or a local coffee shop to get my work done. If I can't do it all at one place, there's no reason for me to choose your restaurant over another one.
I'm assuming you instituted the half-hour policy in an attempt to improve business and get more people in, but it makes me want to avoid your restaurants, despite the loyalty I've had over the past few months of this trip. You'll continue losing my business at any restaurant where you limit how much work I can get done.