Skip to main content

Restaurants, welcome to the metaverse. It’s no longer a vision that’s 5 or 10 years away. It’s here now.

Actually, it “arrived” in October 2021, when Chipotle unveiled its first location within the platform. For Halloween that year, the fast-casual chain was offering a free “boorito” to customers who visit their locations dressed in Halloween costumes, but with a cutting-edge twist!

The costumes would be virtual and the restaurant was on Roblox, an online game platform. Fans and gamers could enter the virtual restaurant, experience a Halloween-themed Chipotle, and get a promo code for a free burrito in the real world.

Of the game-changing move (see what we did there?), Chris Brandt, Chief Marketing Officer at Chipotle said, “As a digital innovator, we are always experimenting on new platforms to meet our guests where they are.”

And where guests are, and will continue to go in record numbers, is the metaverse. According to JP Morgan, the metaverse’s annual revenue is worth more than $1 trillion.

What is the metaverse in simple terms?

In the broadest and simplest definition, the metaverse is understood as a graphically rich virtual space with some degree of verisimilitude, where users, as Avatars, can work, play, shop, socialize, and do all the things people like to do together IRL (in real life), on the internet. Things like going to restaurants.

People will most certainly continue to go out to their favorite restaurants, sit down with family and friends, enjoy good food, and have great conversations in the real world. The metaverse will not change that. Restaurants will continue to provide those unique experiences. But, within the metaverse, restaurants will likely be able to reach more guests, ones who might not always be able to show up in person by providing an EXPERIENCE.

Wendyverse offers an experience featuring a virtual reality Wendy’s restaurant where players can meet up with friends and shoot hoops on a virtual reality basketball court. Users can buy drinks and dance with “Fry Guy” (for visual reference, image one of those Inflatable Tube Men flapping around outside of a car dealership).

April offered another win for Chipotle when it became the first brand to enable Roblox players to exchange in-experience currency for real-world items.

“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,” says Chris Brandt, Chief Marketing Officer at Chipotle. He adds, “We’re blending the metaverse and real-world elements of our brand to take the Chipotle fan experience to a whole new level.”

Other restaurants jumping on the Metaverse bandwagon include Subway, Hooters, Panda Express, Bojangles, Wingstop, McDonald’s, Chick-fil-A, Burger King, Panera, Next Level Burger, Bareburger, Yum Brands, and Inspire Brands. And, they are wise to do so because according to industry experts metaverse is THE next big thing, and it’s not going away.

Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg says that the metaverse will be “The biggest opportunity for modern business since the creation of the Internet.” He has set out plans to spend more than $10 billion developing virtual reality software and hardware.

A recent survey by Paytronix and PYMNTS focused on technological integrations within the restaurant industry found that 20% of consumers were familiar with the Metaverse and 34% of Millennials had participated in the virtual world. Additionally, 38% who had already entered the digital domain would be willing to make restaurant purchases in this environment.

A separate study showed that 52% of Millennials say they would like to be able to try a new venue in the metaverse before they show up to the real world location. Smart restauranteurs are taking notice too.

Josh Halpern, Chief Executive Officer at Big Chicken, says, “It’s becoming clear that to win (new customers) will require a distinct focus on all four major generations – Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z, and Gen Alpha. To win with Gen Z and Gen Alpha, entering the metaverse with authenticity will be critical. These generations want to connect their personal brands to brands that they admire and reflect who they are. The metaverse will provide ample opportunities for restaurants to make that connection, and it’s in our roadmap to be there in a BIG way shortly.”

Opportunities in the Metaverse
In addition to expanding their brand’s footprint and awareness, restaurants can set up their metaverse versions to create a truly unique user experience.
Restaurants will be able to allow virtual customers (Avatars) to sign up for loyalty programs, purchase meals using NFTs, order online, and make reservations that can be translated to the real world.

“The full vision of metaverse may be years away, but brands should start experimenting on what their metaverse presence will be now,” says Vishal Shah, Meta’s VP of Metaverse. He adds, “There are experiences like Horizon Worlds which can give people a feeling of what it means to be together in an experience — it’s a great place to start.”

But that’s just it, it’s just the start. As limitless as the metaverse is, we’re only at the very beginning. The surface.

Join us next week as we take a deeper dive into the future as we explore Web3, cryptocurrencies, and NFTs.