Free Wi-Fi is not always best for your customer

Anton Mannering writes about the frustration of the Wi-Fi service in one of Dublin’s well known budget hotel chains.

So I’m staying here and they have free internet which is great except there’s no cable in the room. I call reception and no one answers so I head on down to reception and find a very swamped but very hard working receptionist working very hard. I tell her my problem and she asks do I have a cable, I say I don’t and she explains to me that the cables they have are all out with guests in their rooms but that they have free WiFi in the lobby and Bar though. A bit bemused I head over to sit in the bar where the Wifi doesn’t work. I then go to the lobby and to different D$ networks don’t work there either.

He continues …

I notice a young slim chap huddled over a mac in the full draft of the front doors and I obviously ask. It appears he has found the drip of WiFi that’s working and eyes me suspiciously as though I’m as though I’ll interfere with his precious supply (or perhaps slow his downloading of porn which he’ll bring back to his room later). Either way I haven’t the least intention of sitting in the freezing draft.

I decide to check with the overworked receptionist who very kindly offered me the use of a meeting room to work in which she assures me has it’s own wifi. I am thrilled but of course the wifi doesn’t work. I return to her and she is so downtrodden that I offer that to help fix it if she can find me the node. She shows me to another conferenc room where low the hallowed supplier of wifi is to be found. I unplug the cable form the back to check it’s ethernet supply is working. You guessed it no internet to the node…

I moved it to another node and the problem was solved which has allowed me to work for the evening and now tell you my sorry tale.

The problem here is that like so many people staying in our nation’s hotels, Anton needed internet access in order to complete his work and booked the room on the promise of internet.

Hotels in Ireland seem to be of the notion that they must give away FREE Wi-Fi in order to remain competitive even though all around the world hotels are moving back to a quality charged Wi-Fi service.  In order to give the service free, hotels are stringing together poor networks on a low budget with a poor back haul which is actually in the long run going to loose them customers and loose them money.

I’m not going to go down the should Wi-Fi be free or not road, their are certainly arguments for both, as with parking ! We (Bitbuzz) Irelands leading Wi-Fi provider operate both charagble and complementary products for our hotel location partners.  What I will say is that weather you charge or not, make sure you do your customers the good service of offering and advertising a quality service that works and can cope with demand and if your a user that requires Wi-Fi for business or whatever purpose then makesure you find out what sort of service the hotel is running before choosing to stay there.  Free is not always good !

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Restaurant Review : Mourne Seafood Bar – Belfast

imagesMourne seafood Bar in Belfast is tucked away from the main street in bank street, one of Belfast many famous entree ways now facing the wrath of the bulldozer as Castle Court shopping centre attempts to expand to a ridiculous size.

I had been promising to take my wife back to Mourne Seafood Bar since she gave birth (pregnant women can’t eat seafood!) to our daughter in March last year.

You can’t book for lunch so the three of us (myself, wife and baby Hannah) headed down at around 2o’clock – The restaurant is set behind a small fish counter where you can go and buy the same fish they will serve in the restaurant, this is also were a lot of the prep work goes on in full view of the public. There was a large queue up to and past the counter. At first I thought the queue was for the counter but no it seems that even during this recession people still can’t get enough of Mourne seafoods excellent offering.

We queued for around half an hour, slowing edging toward actually getting a table when I discovered that this was not actually the queue for getting a table, this was a queue to get into the waiting area to wait to get a table ! crazy, but I did promise Lyndsey that this is where we would eat so queue some more we did. Besides, I figured if all these people were happy to queue then there must be something worth waiting for.

The service was excellent when we finally got to our table, the staff here always know a fair bit about whats on the menu, well trained, friendly and helpful – even more importantly to us – they were very child friendly and prepared some salt free mash for the little’n.

We decided that rather than go for main courses we would get a medley of starters which comprised of.

2 Portions of lightly dusted squid with salad and dips
Fish fingers
Prawn Risotto
Garlic Chips and mash.

The fish fingers are made up of fresh cod, tossed in breadcrumbs – served very hot. incredibly simply and tasty, The squid was good – but a little undercooked for my liking, Squid is one of fav fish dishes and I’m fussy about it ! The Prawn Risotto was simply divine, one of the nicest risotto’s I have had with plenty of prawns through it. Chips were hand cut and the mash was really creamy.

Everything at Mourne Seafood Bar is fresh and locally caught, what you are eating was more than likely in the sea not 24 hours before hand and that is what makes it so good. The restaurant is fairly small seating around 40 people with a further 35 upstairs in the evening. It has a great feel and vibe to it inside with a big old bar and chalk boards scattered around the place with info and stories about upon.

The Costs.
Prawn Risotto £6.50
Squid (£6.50) x 2 £13.00
Fish Fingers £7.50
Champ £2.75
Chips £2.75
Water £1.55
Orange £1.55
Guinness £2.85

TOTAL for 2 people for Lunch :- £38.45
so by no means a cheap lunch but I would say close to being worth it. Lyndsey enjoyed it and our 10 month old daughter Hannah loved the cod !

Rusky Rates
Service, Helpful, friendly and knew the menu, the only downfall here was that she didn’t check how we were getting on : 8/10
Food, All prepared fresh and hot, served in good time, Squid undercooked for my liking : 8/10
Vibe : A good feel to the place, the owner’s care very much about you enjoying your visit : 9/10
Value for Money : £40 for lunch – It was a nice meal but we only got some starters and most of the mains are over £15. At these tough time’s there is defiantly better value out there so : 6/10
Choice : A good selection on the menu for all tastes, there is even some non fish dishes for any non fish lovers in your party. 9/10

Total score 40/50


There has never been a better time to get into retail

There has never been a worse time to be in retail but there has never been a better time to get into retail.

With stores closing and going into administration left and right, Shopping centres and high street property owners are starting to wonder if the high rent they are charging is justified and if the stores have no tenants then how can they expect to get both customers and new retailers into the area.

For this reason, if you have a product or a idea, the timing could not be better, but don’t be fooled by what I am about to say – It will be tough and you will need to have some cash in reserve for the biggest fight of your life!

As I said before Shopping centres and high streets stores are disappearing, the last thing a property owner’s want is an empty store costing them money and that’s where you come in !  You can get these stores for humble money on a short term lease (about 2 years) believe me, the landlord would rather you paying him half than what he normally gets than have the store empty.

Here is a quick guide to what you will need to get started !

1.  Something worth selling, a niche in the market does not mean there is a market in the niche.  There might not be a store in your local town selling pooper scoopers, but why is that ? its because we don’t need a store full of pooper scoopers so research your market well, a lot of research can be done cheaply and effectively by walking around with a clip board asking people questions but try not to ask friends and family because their answers will be bias.

2. Poker face – It may be your dream and it may be the shop you have been eying up for years but as far as the landlord is concerned, you can take it or leave it!  Demand a short term lease, this will limit your risk – two years is just about the right time.  Do not pay the asking rate, offer them 40% and see what happens !

3. DO NOT pay Key Money, huge deposits or to buy someone out of a lease.  If a store is empty then offer to pay for the rent and nothing more.  For the last ten years demand for retail units has been high and for this reason landlords have gotten away with large up front payments which you never see again, don’t pay it, its not necessary !

4. Free rent! Free rent! As I said before no town or centre manager wants an empty store, if you are signing a fixed term contract for say two years then that’s what you have to pay, no matter how bad your sales are.  Demand free rent for the first 6 / 12 months (the length of the lease will determine what you can get away with) to get you started.

5. Check the terms, It is normal for you to have to pay for internal repairs and leave the shop the way you found it.  It is not normal for you to have to pay for external repairs so check this out – also check out what happens at the end of your contract and the re negotiation terms, try and add into the terms that should you wish to extend the lease by 2 or 3 years you can do so at any time within the lease term and that the price cannot rise by more than 10% per year.

6. Its all about the money, Now this part is vital for listen up – In the past if you had enough to open up and pay a few months bills you would have been laughing – not now.  You will need enough money in the bank to pay your self a small salary for two years and the rent for two years ! If you don’t have this – then don’t get into retail now as you will not survive!

7. Stay away from Franchises.  Franchises are a great way to get into business but ask yourself is it necessary to ‘buy’ the brand or can I do it myself, unless the brand is McDonald’s for Starbucks – Then its probably not worth the fee’s unless you have absolutely no business experience what so ever and if that is the case – look for successful franchises that are continuing to grow, The Streat in Northern Ireland for example.

8. Staff, If you are starting small then don’t employ any staff or maybe just a sat/sun person.  If you are busy and rushed off your feet then you can think about the employing a staff member.

Have fun, stick to something you know well, don’t be temped to go into business for the wrong reason’s.  You will know if it is right for you but be prepared to fight long and hard !

If you can get all this right and survive the next two years, when business picks up again you will have a slick well tuned business model ready for the next step.  Then and only then will you begin to reap the rewards !!


Retail Trouble in 2009 – the retailers that will face problems in 2009

I know I promised this post on 1st Jan, what can I say, its been a busy year so far !

Retail in 2009 is going to be one of the worst years in the history of retail.  We have already seen the failure of big household brands like Zavvi, Woolworths, Whitards, Adams, Viyella, Waterford, Wedgewood and The Officers club.

I predict that the following companies will fall on hard time in 2009.

Arcadia Group – BHS, Topshop, Topman, D Perkins and Burtons.  BHS has seen poor trading figures for 3 Decembers in a row now.  Topshop, Topman, D Perkins and Burtons all sell what I consider to be ‘higher end’ clothes which people have almost stopped purchasing on a regular basis, opting for cheaper stores like primark and saving stores like Burton etc for that few and far between special occassion.

JJB Sports – Another company that has seen its fair share of problems over the years, with more people either buying online or holding off on new sports equipment, JJB could see further major problems in 2009.  JJB has recently announced that in 2008 they made a loss of 10 Million – the writing is on the wall I fear !

The fashion chains Principles, Oasis, Karen Millen and Warehouse – all owned by Mosaic – have had an emergency restructuring team sent in from Deloitte. The stores employ about 5,000 staff whose jobs will be at risk unless a new lender is found to refinance the business.

Golf Retailers – These are usually independently ran, with a down turn in people spending money – I feel that existing golfers will ‘make do’ with their current clubs and new people to the sport, might not bother at all !

River Island, Again a high end retailer with people dropping down a budget rung, people may find River Islands pricing just abit to steep !

Marks and Spencer – Will have to fight hard to hold on to their current status this year with hostile take overs a huge possibility ! Click here for more on this.

Phones 4u – Sold in 2007 by John Caldwell for over £700 million to a group of hungry investors let by management – The American power house that turned Eircom upside down will be wondering if, when and how they are going to see a return, they have already removed around £4Million worth of management – more to come I fear !

Next, is another british institution but its another woolworths in the making – since 2005 it has struggled to keep its head above water with profit warning left and right.  I don’t think this is a brand that will disappear but 2009 will definatly be a struggle with well paid staff, falling sales and high rent !

Thomas Cook – Package holidays are the last thing on people’s mind this year, with the bulk of job losses in England and the bulk of thomas cooks business in England – It all adds up to an unhealthy recipe !

But ….. Its not all doom and gloom, amounst the fear and loathing some retailer’s will actually do fantastically this year !

Primark – have just annouched fantastic trading figures, as have Lidl and Adli, these cheaper brands with just as much quality are all part of what money experts are promoting ! Drop down a budget level ! Very little people sell clothes as good as primark as cheaply as primark so it appears that being on the bottom rung of the ‘retail chain’ is definatly the best place to be !


Making everyday an adventure

Making everyday an Adventure : One of the 2008 tag lines of the UK Scouting movement and something that I try to run my life by!

Why shouldn’t everyday to be an adventure? are we so caught up in our boring live’s they we cannot do something new, different or exiting everyday ?

Right now, I’m enjoying life for what it is and not letting the doom and gloom that is a deep recesion and a useless Government get me down but rather taking the time to take the senic route to work, going on mini adventures with my wife and daugther, trying out stores that I have not been in before, trying new things and new foods etc.

Life is good, I’m good ! How are you ?


24th January 1984 – A day that changed the world forever

On January 24th
Apple Computer’s will introduce
Macintosh
And you’ll see why 1984
won’t be like “1984″

When you think back to days that changed the world forever, you might think about the formation of the USA, Presidents being murdered, governments being formed and fallen, wars lost and won, but very little people would describe 24th January 1984 as a day that changed the world – but it was ! In more ways than you may know.

It was the day the Macintosh hit the shelves, the very first main stream personal computer a computer that could potentially be in EVERY home and computer that would be affordable and allow you to work and play from home.

Fantastic.  On the 24th January 2009 – 25 years later I sit in my house with a phone constantly connected to the internet, A laptop computer I can take anywhere and a TV connected to the internet which I can use to watch any TV show every aired.  I can work from home and communicate with people from all around the globe in real time.  I can access pretty much any piece of information I want with seconds and all this would not have been possible if not for the Apple Macintosh !

People think that Bill Gate’s changed the world – but if not for Apple he would not have even had the idea !


Open Coffee Lisburn

I got to talking today on twitter with Andrew Gribben and Simon McC about OpenCoffee Belfast and how of late none of us had been able to attend due to various work and child care restraints.

So as a solution to the problem we have decided to form a sub group – a spinter cell if you will. Open Coffee Lisburn.

For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about when i say ‘Open Coffee’  The OpenCoffee Club was started in London in early 2007 to encourage entrepreneurs, developers and investors to organise real-world informal meetups to chat, network and grow.  Since its birth it has grown worldwide with groups forming in the USA, Australia, Uk, Ireland and Europe with the simple theme

OpenCoffeeClub A Place for people who love startups to hang out and meet

This Friday we will have our first meeting in Cafe Vic Ryn (on the Moira road) : Lisburn @ around 9.30am.  There is no cost (as usual) just turn up, but a coffee and have a chat !

Hope to see you there !