McDonald’s Free Wi-Fi Should Worry Starbucks

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Want Wi-Fi with that?

McDonald’s plans to lift the $2.95 charge currently placed on two hours of wireless Internet as a part of the fast food chain’s overall rebranding effort to become a “destination,” where customers hang out instead of dine and dash. McDonald’s will continue its partnership with AT&T.

McDonald’s evolution into becoming a destination began this year with the premier of the McCafe, McDonald’s premium coffee line, in direct competition with Starbucks. The chain plans to expand its drink offerings in mid-2010 to include frappes and smoothies, further enticing consumers into making McDonald’s, not Starbucks, the third place in their lives.[more]

Starbucks currently charges $3.99 for two hours of Internet access and offers members slight discounts based on accrual of points through their rewards program.

McDonald’s has slowly set out to update its stores with modern designs intended to introduce a hip element to the chain and be more inviting to consumers.

But is the appeal of free Wi-Fi worth the stench of a deep fryer? While McDonald’s abundance of chains makes it one of the most prevalent hot spots in the United States, does it carry enough allure to attract the same audience as Starbucks? (Can you imagine a future where fledging screenwriters populate McDonald’s and not Starbucks?)

Yet free is free, and in this economy, price is everything.

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