Outdoor Wi-Fi for the Food Service Industry
November 25, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a game changer in the food service industry. It has caused a re-evaluation of how to get food to the consumer as dining in has become a less, if rarely, used option. Starbucks recently announced it will expedite the rollout of its new “Pickup” store concept, powered by mobile ordering, in response to the pandemic. It will also expand access to curbside pickup, drive-thru, and walk-up counters in less dense, suburban markets. These types of services, as well as line busting (the process of shortening or eliminating check-out lines by removing customers from the main line and allowing them to pay at a different area from the main checkout), will require outdoor Wi-Fi in order to be an efficient process. So, what wireless options are available to facilitate these services?
Existing Indoor Wi-Fi
Many establishments already have indoor Wi-Fi that can be used for outdoor services. This is the least expensive option as there is no cost associated with using the existing Wi-Fi to broadcast outside and it is the easiest to implement. While cost may be a driving factor for choosing to use this solution, there are some major drawbacks to consider. Is it possible to get a reliable signal outside to cover the areas where you will be performing services like curbside pickup, drive-thru, and line busting? Most likely not. The indoor Wi-Fi was probably designed to only cover the dining area and the signal does not travel far outside of the restaurant. Performance will be poor at worst and unreliable at best.
Wi-Fi MESH is an easily deployable solution where you use a Wi-Fi access point (AP) as a repeater to convey wireless from the main AP to other devices. Sometimes this method works pretty well but for the most part it may be unreliable and perform poorly because it might not cover all of the areas outside of the restaurant that you want it to.
Using an AP Indoors with an Antenna Mounted Outdoors
This is a widely-used and highly-reliable option in the Wi-Fi industry. The AP is mounted inside the restaurant, a hole is drilled in the wall, and the antenna is mounted outside. The antenna and thus the RF signal is placed closer to the client devices to provide a better user experience. While this is a reliable solution, this scenario is also the most expensive solution. Budgeting must account for the costs of the AP, the antenna, cabling, mounts, and the labor to drill holes to get the cable outside to the antenna.
Using an Outdoor AP or Taking an Indoor AP Outside
This is an all-encompassing solution in which you take an IP67 rated device, outdoor AP, or indoor AP and enclosure, and mount it outdoors. The AP is close to the client devices and the focused RF with pattern variation (i.e. 60, 90, 120 degree or omni-directional patterns) can be achieved with the external antenna. This solution is highly reliable and ruggedized for the outdoor environment and only requires a single installation location. Although this is an outdoor installation, you will still need to provide a single penetration point for your Cat 6 cable for PoE and data connectivity.
Ventev Wi-Fi Solutions
Ventev has a portfolio of wireless infrastructure products, including antennas, enclosures, and cabling solutions to provide optimum outdoor Wi-Fi for the food service industry, from curbside pickup to line busting. Ventev recently released new antennas that specifically address this growing Wi-Fi market segment.
2.4/5 GHz, 6 dBi Flush Mount Directional Antenna (SKU 206570) with 4 RPSMA Male Connectors can be mounted outdoors on the facade of a building and provide a wide swath of coverage area.
2.4/5 GHz, 6 dBi Directional Antenna (SKU 269463) with 4 RPTNC Connectors that mounts to glass. This antenna mounts on the inside of the restaurant, connects to an indoor AP, and propagates the RF signal outside through the glass. This is a great solution for curbside pickup.
To thrive in the current economy, the food industry, restaurants, and fast-food establishments in particular, must find other ways to serve their customers as indoor dining becomes less of the norm. Ventev has an ecosystem of products to help establishments provide outdoor Wi-Fi solutions to expand their service offering and customer base.