When Bill Lee and Brett Beller started talking about the idea of using a DAO and NFTs to buy a McDonald’s, they were mostly joking around.
“There was always this joke since the beginning of crypto where if you just traded very poorly, or if you lost a lot of money, you could always work at McDonald’s,” said Lee, an advisor to friesDAO, in a recent interview with The Spoon. “And we just thought it would be hilarious if we got together and said let’s try and buy McDonald’s as a DAO so we can guarantee ourselves a future job.”
The two continued talking and became intrigued enough by the idea to start a Discord server, tell a few folks, and see what happens. Within a few days, a couple thousand had joined the Discord, and it became clear that what started as a meme was now something many were taking very seriously.
“As people started joining, we realized that the pressure is on now,” said Lee. “People are actually wanting to do this for real.”
Different members of the server offered to pitch in, and before long, they had assembled a crew to make it happen. One person started a website. Another registered a domain. Someone put together the documentation. And just like that, a Discord server that had launched after Christmas was a DAO with momentum and real money: As of this week, friesDAO has over $4 million in a treasury.
In the short time the project has been together, Lee and the rest of the team have given lots of thought to how it might work. For token holders, Lee said that while they will have a say in the oversight and direction of the restaurant and get access to real-world benefits like free food, what they won’t get is any ownership equity in the restaurant. That would essentially categorize the effort as equity-based crowdfunding and subject it to much stricter regulatory oversight.
As for the purchase structure and ongoing oversight of the business, the group’s considered a number of ways to do this. While one idea is an outright purchase of an existing restaurant through a contracted third party, another possibility they’re exploring is structuring the deal as a loan to an existing franchise operator to buy another restaurant. This would allow the DAO to rely on the operator’s expertise in running a restaurant, preserve capital, and scale to more cities, all while negotiating real-world benefits for token holders into the terms of the deal like coupons for free food.
With (as of today) over $4.3 million in the treasury, the DAO already has enough to buy a restaurant, but the question is what kind? Lee said the group has priced out everything from a Subway to different nationally recognized burger franchises, but they will likely go after a smaller franchise first, essentially giving them a “practice run” before scooping up a bigger franchise like a McDonald’s.
According to the group’s roadmap, that first purchase should take place around June of this year.
You can listen to my full conversation with Bill Lee of friesDAO below, on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.
If you missed SimulATE, The Spoon’s food Web3 summit last week where we talked with others working on restaurant NFTs (including BurgerDAO and Flyfish Group), you can watch all the sessions here with a subscription to Spoon Plus. (Also, make sure to not miss SimulATE II, coming in May).