How can Metaverse help the food industry?
Cryptocurrencies and the food industry don’t seem like the most intuitive pairing – one based on the digital realm and the other firmly rooted in the physical realm. But going back to the early days of crypto, the first real cases of Bitcoin (BTC) use were related to groceries. On May 22, 2010, Laszlo Haniec made the first documented commercial BTC transaction, buying two Papa John’s pizzas for 10,000 BTC. This day has become embedded in the crypto calendar as Bitcoin Pizza Day. The event itself eventually grew into an annual celebration, with restaurant chains and crypto companies taking advantage of the marketing opportunity. However, Bitcoin Pizza Day not only marked the debut of Bitcoin as a medium of exchange, it also marked the beginning of the cryptocurrency’s relationship with the food sector – a relationship that is starting to develop and will only grow stronger as Web3 and Metaverse take over. Crypto’s insatiable appetite Apart from Bitcoin Pizza Day, the crypto world always seems to be embracing food-related fads. Check out the list of “dead coins” and you’ll find plenty of examples of culinary-sounding tokens, including baconbitcoins, onioncoins, and barbecuecoins. Pizzacoin is even still featured on Coinmarketcap. Like most projects that have accumulated in Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), these are typically tokens with no underlying technology to back them up. However, the advent of the DeFi era brought a series of new food protocols to the table, many of which are still evolving today – SushiSwap and PancakeSwap being the most obvious examples. Aside from the name, there have been many other developments in the convergence of the blockchain, cryptocurrency, and food sector in the years between ICO mania and the 2021 bull market. Food traceability is one area that has proven ripe for abandonment. Solutions like IBM’s Food Trust are often linked to grocery stores like Nestlé and Carrefour, but the company has also worked with California seafood chains to provide more transparency about how dishes are sourced and treated before serving. However, in the field of customer relations, blockchain and cryptocurrencies for gastronomy are coming into play. In recent years, and especially since the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants have grown further and further away from their customers thanks to the growing dominance of platforms like Uber Eats. Unsurprisingly, the platform model has transformed the industry from private transport (Uber) to hotels (Airbnb) to music (Spotify). Applied to the catering industry, the platform model means that technology companies take over customer relationships, including payment processing, data processing, and loyalty programs. Food business owners are relegated to the background so their products are the only part that is ultimately visible to consumers. Perhaps the most damaging thing is that relying on platforms can increase tear-jerking grocery prices by up to 90%. Restore balance Blockchain and crypto are now increasingly able to restore balance by facilitating direct communication between restaurants and their customers. The blockchain-based food operator marketplace offers a similar, easy-to-use, convenience store to find a variety of menus, but allows customers and restaurant owners to interact freely, with retailers having complete autonomy over their menus, having prices and conditions. This means consumers pay directly to the merchant without playing in the hands of a controlling third party. Instead, third-party providers act as infrastructure providers for restaurant and grocery store owners and provide them with the tools to run their online stores at their own expense. However, for now, the ecosystem is only a fraction of its full potential, which will be realized as the transition to the metauniverse gathers momentum. Food in the Metaverse? Is there no place for activity like food that is so entrenched in the real world? Digital consumption has its limits. However, as more and more lives we live digitally, the food industry is bound to keep moving as time goes on. So how will the foodservice provider Metaverse come to be? Richer dining experience The answer is: they have, at least in some cases. For Halloween, American restaurant chain Chipotle opened a virtual restaurant for Roblox players. Users who enter the restaurant have a spooky Halloween experience and then receive a promo code for a free real burrito. The progress of catering services in the metauniverse will largely be a continuation of the journey already started. In addition to the platform model handling the delivery and export of food, it is also an online restaurant experience that is becoming increasingly common by exploring options with Google or TripAdvisor. You can visit the restaurant’s website to browse the menu or view photos or even videos of the dishes and the restaurant itself. Imagine watching your team play a virtual big game and seeing advertisements throughout the stadium for all the seats you can eat afterwards, just like you do now in a physical stadium. Once the game is over and you’re hungry for some food to take home, take your avatar to a virtual street food market where you can see various operators and their menus served as virtual dishes. When you’re ready to order, pay immediately with cryptocurrency and a hood! Your food will arrive at your doorstep in real life within the next half hour. Or let’s say you want to impress that special someone in your life with a delicious meal at an upscale restaurant. You can choose your seat and even your table using the virtual tour. You can even chat with the virtual chef about the preparation and ingredients of a particular dish, or browse the wine list with the virtual sommelier to guide you in selecting dishes to pair. Buffet with options All these scenarios are presented only by the customer – the restaurant has a lot of possibilities. For example, if someone booked a table after going on a virtual tour, the restaurant could request a deposit in cryptocurrency using an escrow system based on a smart contract. This will protect against one of the biggest problems in the hospitality industry – no-show reservations. If the person doesn’t show up, the smart contract simply transfers the escrow funds to the restaurant. So far, gastronomy has not necessarily benefited from digital change. However, blockchain and crypto offer the opportunity to reconnect merchants and customers. Moreover, Metaverse is poised to create unparalleled new value for the entire industry.