I’m a little embarrassed to admit this now, but at the start of the year, I sort of dived head first into the world of cryptocurrencies. I hoovered up books like The Basics of Bitcoin, The Infinite Machine, and Kings of Crypto. I bought my first cryptocurrencies and was transfixed as the value kept going up and up.
To be fair, I was, and am, more interested in the mechanics of blockchain and smart contracts, the technology powering Bitcoin and Ethereum. So when Internet omnipresence Gary Vaynerchuk introduced his new NFT restaurant concept and Brave Robot announced it was accepting crypto payments, my knee-jerk reaction was eye rolling, but after sitting with it, I get it.
On Friday, Vaynerchuk’s VCR group announced the forthcoming NFT restaurant, which doesn’t appear to have a name yet, and won’t open until the fall of 2022. The website describes the restaurant as follows:
To experience the restaurant, guests will require a membership. Memberships can be purchased through an NFT (Non-Fungible Token).
The NFT will represent ownership of your membership which will provide access to the restaurant throughout the month, in addition to unlimited enjoyment of the cocktail lounge and access to private culinary experiences.
There will be 3 different NFT Tokens representing a multitude of experiences in the restaurant.
Each NFT is an asset and can be sold or transferred in the secondary market.
Emphasis on that last part is mine, but it’s also why I’m not just going to trash Vaynerchuk’s idea outright. Membership restaurants aren’t a new idea, but typically when you’re done with your membership at one, you’re done. You have nothing to show for it except the memories. With the NFT concept, however, you could potentially sell your spot for a profit if the value of the restaurant’s NFT increases. Vaynerchuk didn’t mention this outright, but because your membership is a smart contract, it could include provisions that ensure his restaurant gets a cut of any secondary or subsequent sale of that membership. That’s additional revenue for the restaurant.
Listen, I’m not saying it’s a great solution, or that more restaurants should adopt it, or that I would ever purchase such an NFT (I wouldn’t). But at least it’s an NFT with some utitility. Unlike the digital collectibles from Taco Bell, or the virtual dining NFT, Gary V’s idea gets you access to an actual meal you can eat.
The NFT restaurant wasn’t the only bit of blockchain news in the world of food tech last week. On Thursday, Brave Robot, which makes animal-free ice cream out of Perfect Day’s fermented dairy proteins, announced that you can now pay for your pints of ice cream with cryptocurrencies. The company’s direct to consumer site will accept payments in Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, DAI, Ethereum, Litecoin, or USD Coin. Cryptocurrencies are pretty volatile, so this could wind up being either a really good idea or a bad one, depending on which way the markets go.
What both of these announcements have in common, however, is showing how cryptocurrencies are steadily creeping further into the mainstream — and how the food industry is adapting to these changes. Creating restaurant memberships out of smart contracts and accepting Litecoin for ice cream is a far cry from the 10,000 bitcoins Laszlo Hanyecz paid eleven years ago to get a Papa John’s pizza delivered. But they aren’t ridiculous notions either.
As Brave Robot noted in its announcement, part of the reason for its acceptance of digital currencies was because millennials and Gen Z are adopting the technology. That’s not a guarantee that young folks will carry cryptocurrencies to become the de facto payment method of the future, but neither Gary V or Brave Robot should be embarrassed by their recent blockchain moves.
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