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Shotwell’s Bar: Tom’s Story

The bar owner who enables secure WiFi for payments and keeps the good times rolling for customers

Business Type



San Francisco, California, USA


  • Greater efficiency and security through a WiFi-enabled POS system
  • Improved WiFi provides seamless connections for staff and customers
  • Guest WiFi promotes easy social social sharing by patrons, strengthening word-of-mouth growth

Their Story

Shotwell’s Bar is a century-old neighborhood bar, originally built in 1891 as a grocery and saloon, located in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District.

Shotwell’s stays true to its historic roots with a charming and warm saloon-style ambience, where co-owner and bartender Tom Madonna and his team serve drinks and food to the local community. After leaving the world of corporate finance in 2006, Tom embraced running a bar as a way to revitalize and transport customers back in time, when people would visit their local watering bar to connect with neighbors and their community.

Between the pool table, pinball machine, juke box, and multiple TVs, there’s something for everyone at Shotwell’s. It’s a friendly bar where locals, tourists, and even dogs can hang out and catch up with friends.

Meraki Go allows us to split our WiFi into multiple networks so we can operate more efficiently. We have a network for our POS system to have its own dedicated and fast service; a second one for entertainment, as music is crucial for setting the mood of the bar; and a third one for customers.

The Challenge

Until recently, Tom wanted to preserve Shotwell’s old-school approach and vibe that the community embraced by being a cash-only bar.

Over the years, corporate teams would come in with large groups and ask to pay on a corporate card. Locals in the tech-driven city of San Francisco were also used to carrying digital wallets. Tom hooked up a new POS system to their existing WiFi to be able to take credit cards, but with staff and guests sharing the same WiFi network, he saw a reduction of bandwidth and security.

Having a slow network interfered with their ability to process transactions and keep customers happy, and Tom knew it was time to embrace newer technologies.

The Solution

To enable Shotwell’s Bar to have seamless and secure credit card transactions and better customer experiences, Tom went with Meraki Go for powerful, reliable, and secure WiFi.

Since unboxing Meraki Go, Tom has seen a dramatic difference in their efficiency and ability to cater to the needs of customers compared to their previous solution. They can now create separate and secure WiFi networks for employees, customers, music, and the POS system, and prioritize usage and bandwidth limits for each.

With customer growth being top-of-mind, Meraki Go has also been a great way for Shotwell’s to encourage patrons to share their experiences on social media. From the Meraki Go app, Tom has been able to take advantage of creating a landing page for anyone logging into their guest network that redirects to Shotwell’s Instagram account.

The Results

Having their network slowed down by people watching videos or using the internet is no longer a problem or frustration for Tom. His team can now get transactions quickly processed with a separate “behind the bar” network that gives them priority for POS transactions. Tom finally has peace of mind.

Meraki Go has enabled Shotwell’s Bar to transform their business, boost engagement and word of mouth in digital channels, open up new revenue streams, create seamless jukebox entertainment for guests, and most importantly, keep customers happy.

At Shotwell’s Bar, we get a lot of international customers using our WiFi to post pictures on Instagram or just check their email. They can log right into the guest network, then land on our splash page, which is our Instagram account. It’s a really cool feature that gives us word-of-mouth growth from our customers’ posts.

Small Business Tips

Tom shares his top three tips for other small businesses:

Tip 1

As a bar owner, having everything connected and running smoothly behind the scenes is crucial to creating memorable experiences for customers and turning them into regulars. If you’re using old or complex technology, and if your POS systems aren’t talking to the rest of your network, try Meraki Go.

Tip 2

Take advantage of Guest Insights in Meraki Go. We can see trends about peak guest times and how often guests come back to improve staffing and happy hour offers.

Tip 3

To increase word of mouth on social media, create a landing page for your WiFi network. We use our Instagram account, and have gotten more user generated content and reach!

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