After reading this title, you might be wondering: since we can’t actually eat in the metaverse, what use will restaurants truly have inside a virtual world? Or what use could possibly come out of an NFT “food” item?
Over the years, popular restaurant chains have seen growth by adopting more purpose-driven brand models. McDonald’s, for example, isn’t just known for its cheap and delicious food items — but also for its ability to raise funds for charity efforts and give back to communities in need. The Taco Bell Foundation has also spent years gathering millions of dollars in funds, which it regularly allocates towards grants and scholarships to help young leaders access easier paths to education and career-building.
Web3 technology is slowly presenting a range of use cases for the restaurant industry — including opportunities to crowdfund using NFTs, create innovative metaverse experiences, build deeper brand loyalty and provide customers with greater experiences and perks. In this article, we’ll look at 5 notable restaurants that are adopting Web3 and metaverse technology to enhance their marketing campaigns.
The fast-food industry’s reigning champion has already shown significant interest in utilising Web3 technology to create new experiences for its customer base. So far, the restaurant’s initiatives include plans for metaverse experiences and commemorative NFTs.
While this may be a new turn in the company’s marketing roadmap, it isn’t necessarily an uncharacteristic move for McDonald’s. The fast-food restaurant has been long-regarded as an innovator in the fast-food industry, with frequent successful changes to its branding and model over the course of several decades. Out of all fast-food restaurants, Mcdonald’s is also highly regarded as a leader in digital technology — with a digital innovation team that currently counts 130 people globally.
In February 2022, it was announced that McDonald’s tendered an application for 10 trademarks in the metaverse. According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), this trademark registration is meant to cover the support of both physical and virtual goods, as well as a virtual restaurant that also offers home delivery services.
Last year, popular fast-food chain Taco Bell announced that they would be releasing a series of “limited” NFTs on the Ethereum blockchain. Sold on the Rarible marketplace, the 25 pieces of digital art sold within a mere half hour. With the highest recorded bid, the restaurant’s “Ever-Crunching” tacos piece received the highest of all bids — coming in at 3.9 ETH, or the equivalent of $9,406 USD.
Venture capitalist David Pakman commended Taco Bell for its early adoption of NFT technology: “Right now, we are in the experimentation phase of the market, so I would expect to see lots of different experiments from musical and visual artists, brands, tech companies, media companies and creators of all stripes. Sometimes brands can be rewarded for embracing emerging consumer trends earlier than their peer group, so kudos to Taco Bell.”
Taco Bell’s NFT drop also ended up being a great case for tokenised crowdfunding, with all funds from the restaurant’s project being allocated to charity. According to the listing, 100% of the profits earned from the sale were donated to Taco Bell Foundation, Inc. “to empower youth to discover and pursue their career and educational pathways.”
This month, Starbucks announced that they would be launching their own digital community Web3 platform — including a release of loyalty-based NFTs. On the company’s fiscal Q2 2022 earnings call, Starbucks presented this new plan to investors — arguing in favour of NFT technology as a way for the popular coffee chain to extend its brand’s concept of the “third place” — a term they’ve used to describe a place where people can feel a sense of belonging over coffee between the home and the workplace.
“Emerging technologies associated with Web3, and specifically NFTs, now enable this aspiration and allow us to extend who Starbucks has always been at our core,” says Brady Brewer, Starbucks Chief Marketing Officer. “We are creating the digital ‘third place’. To achieve this, we will broaden our framework of what it means for people to be a member of the Starbucks community, adding new concepts such as ownership and community-based membership models that we see developing in the Web3 space.”
Starbucks has not yet revealed specific details on what their first set of NFTs will look like or which sorts of utilities will come attached. However, the company has detailed in an official blog post that it believes there is potential for the company to provide customers with additional experiences and perks through greater utility.
Starbucks, which is also well-known for promoting artists and musicians, plans to continue this streak with its first NFT launch. According to the post, the company plans to start its first “collection, membership and community later this year, based on coffee art and storytelling. It will come with a host of unique experiences and benefits.”
Last month, in honour of National Burrito Day (which was April 7th, in case you weren’t aware), Chipotle set up shop in the metaverse by launching its very own virtual “burrito builder” — hosted by Roblox. The game was apparently inspired by “Chipotle fans on social media who have compared the complexities of rolling burritos to playing a video game,” the brand announced in an official statement.
While Chipotle didn’t necessarily make use of a Web3 platform (such as Decentraland or The Sandbox), the famous Mexican chain did tap into the popular ‘play-to-earn’ model found in several blockchain games. In this case, users who were able to complete gamified tasks were rewarded with exclusive in-game items instead.
Chris Brandt, Chipotle’s chief marketer, made a statement on the model: “We’ve tapped into play-to-earn, an emerging engagement model in the metaverse, to launch our newest experience on Roblox that celebrates the iconic Chipotle burrito. We’re blending the metaverse and real-world elements of our brand to take the Chipotle fan experience to a whole new level.”
Bored & Hungry
Based in Long Beach, California, Bored & Hungry was inspired by — you guessed it — the imagery from the now infamous Bored Ape NFTs, which are indisputably the most popular and successful of all NFT projects. Andy Nguyen, owner and founder of the new popup establishment, purchased four NFTs from Bored Ape Yacht Club and two NFTs from Mutant Ape Yacht Club to fund the initiative. Each image now appears across the restaurant’s food packaging and branding.
“The main bored ape, which is our logo, we spent a little over $267,000 on — and on the Mutant Apes we spent around $65,000 to $75,000 for each one,” Nguyen has detailed, revealing how much money was spent on each lucrative crypto asset to kick things off.
In all, it appears that Bored & Hungry isn’t just a flashy new burger joint adorned with popular cartoons as its logo. Its interesting model has actually revealed several insights into how NFT technology can translate into the real world, as the company has also announced that it will accept both Ethereum and ApeCoin (BAYC’s token) as a form of payment.
“The goal is to give back to the growing [Web3] community and open the doors to those who want to learn more about this new Web3/NFT world,” Nguyen has commented. When detailing his greater mission, he says: “Our job is to educate the public about this new future world. And show people that you can create a brand/business out of this IP. Taking away the stigma of, ‘it’s just a jpeg.’”