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You want Wi-Fi with that?

McDonald's wireless network sizzles with thousands of consumer hot spots and juicy apps for franchisees.

By Susan Breidenbach, Network World
October 23, 2006 12:11 AM ET

Network World - There's something in the air at McDonald's these days, and it's not just the wafting scent of Big Macs and french fries. Wireless Internet access is on the menu in a growing number of locations as the world's largest fast-food restaurant chain seeks to give its famous Golden Arches a more digital flavor.

McDonald's is three years into its big Wi-Fi push, which so far has brought wireless connectivity to more than 7,500 of the company's 13,700 restaurants in the United States.

The Wi-Fi project is part of a huge re-imaging campaign McDonald's launched in 2003 to bolster its brand association, which had hit an all-time low. The nation faced an obesity epidemic, and some vocal critics and overweight customers were holding fast food in general - and McDonald's in particular - largely responsible for it.

McDonald's addressed the food issues by mixing salads and grilled chicken in with its traditional burger fare, but the company's much bigger challenge was a cultural shift into an increasingly intangible economy with its digital culture. Facing a world in which experiences are becoming as real and economically valuable as steel and automobiles - much less Quarter-Pounders with Cheese - McDonald's sees Wi-Fi as a way to add a fourth dimension - digital services - to its traditional offerings of food, convenience and price.

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