07/05/2012 11:24 EDT | Updated 09/04/2012 05:12 EDT

Tim Hortons offers free wireless internet

Tim Hortons is joining the ranks of restaurants offering a digital perk to its coffee-mad customers — free wireless internet.

The ubiquitous donut chain says it will roll out wireless Internet service to 90 per cent of its stores across Canada by September.

"It's all about convenience and making life easier for our guests," Tim Hortons spokesman Roland Walton said in a release.

After undergoing what the company calls a "rigorous six-month process" with multiple internet service providers, Tims will work with Bell Canada to roll out the national service to more than 2,000 Tim Hortons locations in time for the new school year.

The plan does not include its non-traditional outlets, including kiosks, gas stations and hospital locations.

New strategy

The move is a departure from some of the chain's previous innovations, which are largely focused on making locations more efficient, to aid in getting customers in and out and maximizing the amount of money they spent in the short time they're there.

But encouraging customers to take their time and relax is very much a requirement in the competitive urban coffee shop space, retail consultant Wendy Evans says.

"It's a coffee pub concept," Evans says, aimed at getting a younger demographic of customers who wouldn't ordinarily consider Tim Hortons for more than a quick cup to come in and hang around. "Tim's has a sort of captive demographic a lot of the time, based on the location of their stores," along truck stops and in smaller towns. "[But] that typical business doesn't attract the younger clients in to stay."

Quick-service restaurant rivals such as McDonalds and Starbucks already offer free Wi-Fi, so the Wi-Fi plan is just Tim's way of maintaining market share in urban centres.

"If you're going to have coffee shops in the city, you've got to be doing this," Evans says. "You've got to be in this space."