McDonald's builds on fast reputation by offering wi-fi

SAN FRANCISCO - McDonald's may be more synonymous with French fries than wi-fi, but the fast-food giant is about to change all that.

The company debuted its high-speed wireless access at one of its San Francisco restaurants, one of 75 in the Bay Area that will offer wi-fi by the end of July. San Francisco is the first of three test markets, along with Chicago and New York.

While most people probably don't think of McDonald's as a bleeding-edge company when it comes to technology, it has faced similar perception issues in the past and prevailed.

"Sure, it's a bit of a paradigm curve for people," said Greg Waring, McDonald's director of business development. "But we launched the first drive-thru, and people wondered why you would want to pull up next to a restaurant to order food. We were the first to offer breakfast, and people wondered why you would get breakfast from us. But now both are commonplace. It's about giving customers what they want. Speed and convenience are what we're known for; offering wi-fi is part of that."

That was the message McDonald's and DuDell & Associates, which is coordinating PR for McDonald's in the Bay Area, tried to send the media. DuDell reached out not just to regional and national media, but also reporters who cover food, entertainment, business, and technology.

"This is a unique story with wide appeal," said Mary Burczyk, a consultant with DuDell. "I think this is a sign that wi-fi is at the tipping point of becoming more ubiquitous. McDonald's is ubiquitous and easy to find, and so will wi-fi.

"McDonald's believes its hallmarks are convenience, service, and value," she added. "Offering customers wi-fi access speaks to all three of those."

While DuDell has managed the PR surrounding the launch, it has worked closely with the PR teams at McDonald's; Wayport, which provides the wi-fi service; Intel, which provides the technology; and GCI Group, Wayport's PR agency.

McDonald's and Intel are also planning a joint marketing campaign to promote the wi-fi spots throughout the Bay Area, Chicago, and New York.

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