Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ripple, Dash – if you’ve been keeping up with the latest disruptive force in financial technology, i.e. cryptocurrency, then these names would be familiar to you.
But while cryptocurrencies have become a global phenomenon of late, its risks, methodology, and potential applications are still largely misunderstood by most.
And while the hospitality industry itself may not be heavily impacted by the proliferation of cryptocurrency for a few years yet, one iconic burger joint is making a headstart riding this technological wave.
Steve Agi, hospitality veteran and co-owner of Melbourne-based #burgerlove, talks to us about their decision to start accepting cryptocurrency, and the positive effect it’s having on the business.
Video supplied by #burgerlove.
Riding the blockchain train
With over 30 years of hospitality operations, media and publishing, Steve is an authority on the many changes that have hit the industry over the last two decades, the most impactful of which as we well know, is technology.
As the hospitality and foodservice industries become increasingly disrupted by technology, the way consumers discover, choose, order and pay for food has changed drastically. It used to be that people would walk into a store, decide on the options they liked, order, eat and pay.
But today, every step of that journey is heightened by digital, and every point of interaction with a business forms an impression that is only one part of the overall high-quality experience consumers have come to expect.
As a result, #burgerlove started accepting cryptocurrency a few weeks ago, and is the first quick-service restaurant in Australia to do so.
“We moved into Cryptocurrency simply because I’m of the school of thought that embraces new technologies, upcoming trends and opportunities,” Steve said.
“Around 20 years ago, people said EFTPOS was not going to work in [food] retail, and that it’s a cash economy. Today, cash is just 10 per cent of our business,” he said.
Enhancing the customer experience with more payment options
According to Steve, the #burgerlove business model is built around customer experience, engagement, social media and staying current – all of which are enabled by technology.
“I’ve always been an early adopter of technology – it’s one of the reasons we chose a cloud-based point of sale solution over one that required us to have a network in-store for example.”
“Besides our interest in cryptocurrency and its potential applications in future, it’s more about giving customers the experience they expect, that’s how we like to do things at #burgerlove,” Steve said.
So how does it work?
Customers are supplied a QR code which they scan, and that takes them to #burgerlove’s coin wallet. They’re then able to pay using a variety of cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, Litecoin, Dash, NEM and XEM.
And to sweeten the deal – customers who pay using cryptocurrency receive a free T-shirt on the spot.
“Cryptocurrency is not exactly cash-in-hand, it’s money that’s sitting there that you can use to buy a real burger. Our customers feel good paying with cryptocurrency because it doesn’t feel like they’re spending the hard cash they have so to speak,” Steve said.
“The response has been fantastic, and from a branding perspective, it gives us exposure into a whole different network of burger lovers as well.” he said.
Educating through meaningful partnerships
Even as #burgerlove’s acceptance of cryptocurrency marks a new beginning for the Australian hospitality industry, Steve notes that there’s still a fair amount of doubt and unsureness surrounding – and perhaps hampering – blockchain technology and its widespread adoption.
Recognising the crucial role that education plays in the uptake of any new technology, #burgerlove worked with a few partners to implement the acceptance of cryptocurrency in the business.
“We worked with a group called CoinWisdom, an online peer-to-peer education platform, and The Blockchain Centre in Melbourne, the world’s first non-profit blockchain technology community hub and coworking space. They’ve been a great help to us.” Steve said.
Their other partnerships included a recent event co-hosted with NEM – a blockchain-based community initiative founded in Singapore with members worldwide – which saw the launch of a special #NEMBurger in Australia.
Made from (n)oodle-coated fried chicken, (e)gg, (m)ozzarella sticks, cheese, chipotle and barbeque sauce (see what they did there?), the burger did good in more ways than one – AUD$1 from every sale was donated to TLC for Kids, a charity that offers support for sick kids and their families in Australia.
Taking that step to start accepting cryptocurrency has been a rewarding experience for #burgerlove in more ways than one. And for hospitality businesses exploring implementing cryptocurrency in their own restaurants, Steve has a few words of sage advice.
“It remains to be seen whether cryptocurrency will have the same uptake as EFTPOS but there is obviously a movement away from the traditional payment methods we know and are used to,” Steve said.
“It can be scary to take on, but my advice is to learn, understand it and ask questions early. Always keep in mind that the early adopters are the ones that benefit the most, because you’ll change and evolve with every new technological undertaking. By the time everyone else has caught on – you’ll have already got it down pat, which puts you ahead.”