Seeking students, restaurants put wireless Net on the menu

Nomaan Merchant

Northwestern University students can now surf the Web while eating their chicken fries at Burger King, 1740 Orrington Ave.

Restaurant manager Jay Darshane joined a host of other Evanston business owners when he installed free wireless Internet access this summer.

“I’ve seen a lot of people using it, so I decided to do it,” Darshane said.

Darshane said offering Internet access has led to an increase in business, and Burger King now has several regular customers who use their laptops inside the restaurant.

“People tend to stay longer,” Darshane said. “And then they come by to grab a coffee.”

Other Evanston restaurants have been offering wireless Internet access for longer.

May Drevers, the general manager at Unicorn Cafe, 1723 Sherman Ave., said that laptop users have made up a big part of her restaurant’s business over the past few years.

“At night, the whole cafe is people with their laptops,” Drevers said.

Unicorn Cafe, which offers wireless Internet access for an annual fee of $10, has about 200 subscribers, Drevers said. It costs the restaurant about $60 to $70 a month to provide the service.

Weinberg freshman Justin Tokarz, who uses the wireless Internet at Unicorn Cafe, said that he goes to Unicorn partly to access the Internet on his computer, but it’s more for the atmosphere of the cafe.

“I like the ambience here as opposed to Starbucks,” Tokarz said.

Kafein, 1621 Chicago Ave., is another coffee shop that offers wireless Internet access, but at no charge, said Tom Gibbs, one of the cafe’s managers. Gibbs said the cafe installed wireless access within the past year to “keep up with competition.”

“When we didn’t have it and other cafes had it, people would ask (if the cafe offered wireless) and then walk out,” Gibbs said, who estimated 10 to 20 customers daily use their laptops in the restaurant.

Graduate student Rebecca Aronson said she uses the wireless Internet at Kafein two to three times a week.

“We don’t have a connection at home so (we use the Internet) wherever we can find it,” Aronson said.

Spencer Kornhaber, a Medill freshman who lives in Communications Residential College, has Internet access in his dorm room and at other campus locations. Still, he said he would consider using the wireless at Burger King.

“If it was late and I needed to study, and I was really hungry, and there was nothing in the fridge, I would go there,” he said.

Reach Nomaan Merchant at n-merchant @northwestern.edu