For those following the cryptocurrency markets, this weekend saw a big milestone as Ethereum passed the $3,000 mark. That still pales in comparison to Bitcoin’s price tag of nearly $58,000 per coin (at the time of this writing), but it reinforces that there is growing interest in digital currencies among the general public.
As such, I thought it was worth re-surfacing a small bit my colleague, Jenn Marston wrote about Bitcoin in her most recent restaurant tech newsletter over the weekend:
Landry’s a restaurant group that owns Morton’s The Steakhouse and Bubba Gump’s Shrimp, said in a recent interview that most of the company’s restaurant brands will start accepting bitcoin as payment in the coming months. CEO Tilman Fertitta cited “the next 90 days” as a timeframe.
Cryptocurrencies actually have a long history with food. Pizza, of all things, was one of the first things “purchased” with Bitcoin. In 2010, Laszlo Hanyecz traded 10,000 Bitcoins with someone in exchange for them ordering him Papa Johns.
We’ve seen crypto gain acceptance in fits and starts since then. Other restaurant chains have dabbled in accepting Bitcoin, though these are more one-offs in various regions: Burger Kings and Pizza Huts in Venezuela, KFC Canada (for a limited time), some Subway stores, for example. Ramen vending machine, Yo-Kai Express accepted Bitcoin at one point.
But we’re starting to see more acceptance of crypto from big, established companies. Whole Foods started accepting cryptocurrency back in 2019. In April of this year, you could start buying Starbucks with Bitcoin through the Bakkt digital wallet. Chipotle used Bitcoin as the backbone of a promotional stunt. Landry’s jumping into crypto is another big company pushing acceptance of Bitcoin forward.
This is not a financial blog, so this post should not be construed as advice. But as more retail investors start buying crypto, and well established companies like PayPal and Tesla begin to adopt Bitcoin, is there a bigger opportunity for food tech?
At first, adopting cryptocurrencies might seem like a natural fit for many of the companies we cover. Restaurants, grocery retailers, vending machine companies are all looking to streamline and automate much of their operations. Adding a universal digital currency available anywhere in the world could, in theory, could remove some friction from the transaction process, and generate more sales.
But there are definite pitfalls to adopting a cryptocurrency. The whole process is still very complex. Not only are there are ton of cryptocurrencies with various utilities and values (and there are some shady players out there), just the act of buying and spending cryptocurrency is still complicated for the average consumer. Cryptocurrencies are also still volatile. Yes, the overall trend for Bitcoin over the past year has been a hockey stick, but it still has wild valuation swings, so the money you take in today could be worth a lot less an hour later. And then there are tax and regulatory issues around crypto currencies that haven’t been fully figured out yet.
We appear to be at some kind of public perception inflection point for cryptocurrencies. While this bull run could be interrupted with a severe downturn, there are more people than ever learning about, buying and spending Bitcoin. That’s an opportunity for sure, but one with no small amount of risk.