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Fun at the foodverse: Are we there yet?

Blockchain enthusiasts believe there is potential for collaboration with the food and beverage sector for dining in the virtual world

August 16, 2022 / 12:45 PM IST

Can food and beverages be paired with blockchain technology?

There are some instances. In recent times, Starbucks, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Coca-Cola, among others, have collaborated with the blockchain industry. Michelin Star chef Vikas Khanna, who is no less than a brand himself, launched his 38th book Sacred Foods of India as an NFT (non-fungible token).

There are various ways in which the food and beverage sector can collaborate with blockchain, experts said. One way is for restaurants to include cryptos or NFTs in their reward and loyalty programmes, while another way could be to introduce customers to a food metaverse.

Experts call this a “natural progression” for food and blockchain tech. While youngsters are ready to give it a shot, some are doubtful about its prospects, given the concerns of the government and the regulatory authority over cryptocurrencies.

“Food chains getting into the crypto scene is a natural progression. In fact, the NFT and crypto strategy is no different from their current reward programmes. They can start from there to build more stickiness with their customers at a very young age, from NFT to games to “eat-to-earn” in their own metaverse,” Anndy Lian, former chairman of BigONE Exchange, a global top 30 ranked crypto spot exchange, told Moneycontrol.

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Imagine getting an NFT or crypto reward points at McDonald’s instead of a free  Happy Meal gift. That’s a template for food chains that want to collaborate with the crypto industry. Digital collectables such as NFTs could be valuable as a form of investment and a way for youngsters to learn about finances.

Hybrid stage

Ankitt Gaur, founder of EasyFi, a decentralised finance lending protocol, said a hybrid shift in the reward systems could be possible in the immediate future.

“A guest visiting a restaurant for a meal gets a physical reward there coupled with a digital asset like an NFT that can be redeemed in the future, traded in the open market or collected for a better value in the future, based on the rarity of the NFT,” Gaur said.

A Happy Meal with a free gift at McDonald’s not only excites kids but also makes people of all age groups happy.

Pranay Jain, founder of BodyFirst, a nutrition brand, said, “We know even older folks look forward to the comfort of a happy meal and the anticipation of an accompanying tiny toy. So why not introduce the demographic to the metaverse? More importantly, a collection of NFTs with happy meals or the likes across various fast food chains would probably bring a lot more than just the excitement of holding toys. It could just be the start of making investments in NFTs and cryptocurrencies.”

Anshita Mathur, 26, a manager at Axis Bank, doesn’t mind redeeming reward points into crypto or getting NFTs instead of physical free gifts.

“I think we’re over the age of physical collectables, and digital art is easier to hold and make a strong collection out of. I don't think you can hold as much physical art as you can a digital collection,” she said.

Mukul Jain, 25, a product manager at ICICI Lombard, loves the idea of NFTs instead of physical collectables, but he doubts whether food chains will use blockchain for currency given the government’s compliance and tax norms.

A metaverse date

The other idea for collaboration is to create a foodverse – a virtual dining space. OneRare recently built a metaverse for food, gaming and NFTs on the blockchain ecosystem.

Now, imagine having a date in the foodverse where you and your partner meet as avatars in a restaurant-like setting.

“The younger generation is always at the forefront of any tech revolution and it will forefront the metaverse adoption as well,” said Supreet Raju, cofounder of OneRare. “A date in the foodverse could mean hanging out with your buddy when you can’t be in the same city or enjoying a virtual experience that earns you coffee NFT rewards that can be swapped for real-life coffees. A lot is possible with the power of blockchain technology.”

Raj Kapoor, founder of India Blockchain Alliance, said metaverse dating could be exciting.

“The entire concept could be intriguing, exciting, and even scary. We also may be looking to a future where we are always hooked into a virtual world. I fear it will be a dystopian nightmare,” he said.

Mathur finds the idea of metaverse dating interesting.

“The physical intimacy and emotional aspect might not be the same for me, but I am open to trying it out,” she said.

Rhea Mehta, 26, said that with metaverse dates, people would be able to discover more of each other’s personalities in a safer virtual space before actually meeting up.

“It would be interesting to see how food companies create online experiences for dating,” she said.

On the other hand, Arijit Mukherjee, founder of Yunometa, an NFT and metaverse marketplace, said it would be a “real challenge” to convince diners to be a part of this ecosystem. While youngsters might get excited about the idea, it will take time to convince people of all age groups.

“Youngsters would likely go on a virtual date with their avatars or celebrate close occasions in the metaverse if they’re far apart. Many other use cases will draw in youngsters to experiment and use this new technology. Just as there are social media kids today for whom tweeting and Instagramming is second nature, similarly a new generation will take to Web3 like fish to water and further popularise the technology,” he said.

On the whole, experts see a future for food and beverages with the metaverse and look forward to progressive collaboration between them.

“It would take the next two-three years to see the returns on investment... But the ball is rolling and it is only a matter of time before it gathers momentum,” Kapoor said.

Mukherjee said, “Don’t be surprised if your next social date is in the metaverse with your avatar in the very near future!”

Anjali Kochhar is an independent journalist experienced in business and lifestyle writing. She is an avid follower of blockchain technology and digital assets.
first published: Aug 16, 2022 12:37 pm