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Bluff City Grill

Success story: Bluff City Grill

Bluff City Grill is a 150-seat restaurant and bar in downtown Alton, Illinois. The space—formerly the home of an insurance office and dry cleaner—has been transformed into one of the city’s most popular eateries.

In addition to unique dishes such as fried banana peppers and white chicken chili, owner Cathy Gross and executive chef Mike Cool wanted to add another specialty to the menu: free restaurant Wi-Fi.

Bluff City hired Tim McDonough, a friend and IT consultant with a background in the food and beverage industry, to take care of the job.

“I knew I needed a business quality Wi-Fi system,” said McDonough. “But I knew I couldn’t recommend some enterprise system. It would cost too much, plus there wouldn’t be anyone there to manage it.”

McDonough selected Open Mesh for the deployment.

“With one open guest Wi-Fi network and one secured network, Open Mesh is perfect for a restaurant,” said McDonough. “It’s easy to set up, configure and use.”

The building’s construction presented a challenge. McDonough had to deal with what were once separate spaces, including an existing brick and concrete building and a new addition. McDonough used three Open Mesh modular access points in indoor ceiling enclosures to cover the three separate areas of the restaurants: a dining room and two bars. He used Open Mesh’s PoE injectors to send power and data over a single Ethernet cable to each access point.

“The ceiling enclosures were simple to mount to the drop ceiling rails and screw to the wall,” said McDonough. “They have clean lines and just blend into the background. The guests don’t notice them.”

McDonough added the access points to Open Mesh’s free, cloud-based network controller, CloudTrax, so that he could manage and monitor the network remotely.

“The cloud-based controller for the system is secure, simple to use and allows for easy remote management IT support,” he said.

With CloudTrax, McDonough created two separate networks (SSIDs). On one network, he enabled WPA2 security so that only trusted devices from staff and management could connect. On the second network, McDonough set up a public SSID for guests that automatically provides each device with a secure tunnel to the Internet. He set bandwidth throttling at the device-level and added a custom-branded splash page with legal terms and conditions.

“Setting up a custom page was easy, and came with beautiful pages to choose from,” said McDonough.

"It’s the perfect wireless solution for small and medium-sized businesses."

With the network fully deployed, McDonough now uses CloudTrax to remotely monitor the network from anywhere—typically his home more than 900 miles away in Jacksonville, Florida. He can see the detailed status of each access point and connected guest device, get a picture of overall network activity, and perform site surveys to identify any wireless signals that could be interfering with the network.

Since opening to rave reviews, Bluff City Grill’s Wi-Fi has been a hit. Customers now come for a business lunches, get together for fantasy football drafts, and use the network in other ways.

“Rather than sitting in a cafe, they can come get great food and a beer with their Wi-Fi,” laughed McDonough.

McDonough says that the system has been in operation for a little over two months, and not once has it gone down or been unusable due to the devices or configuration.

“It’s the perfect wireless solution for small and medium-sized businesses,” he said.