Does a Deli Need to Offer Public Wireless to Survive?

Let’s face it. We’ve walked into many a restaurant, deli or otherwise, and brought out our cell phones and tablets looking for a public wireless network to check our email or check into Facebook places. We’re not alone, either. This is a trend anytime the public is going to be sitting in one spot for more than a few minutes.

While most customers are not at the point where they will leave if there is no wireless – will they come back? Will the availability of free wireless be a tipping point for customers in the near future, actively figuring in their dining choices?

Apparently some restaurants and coffee shops think otherwise, claiming that having patrons lingering over their laptops or other electronic devices actually impedes their business by having the customers tie up the tables for too long (it’s called “turning the table” in the industry jargon).

While we know that every deli owner has to decide this issue on an individual basis, taking a lot of different factors into account, we wonder if banning laptops or otherwise trying to turn tables quickly is the right way to go. Can a deli maintain an old-fashioned atmosphere and sensibility while embracing new trends and techniques to attract customers? It’s good advertising for the restaurant to have patrons check into Foursquare or Facebook places, right? Should the restaurant provide them with the wireless means to do so?

What’s your answer?