Restaurant chains are entering the great unknown, taking bold leaps into the “metaverse.” It’s the latest endeavor by fast-food brands to reach potential customers where they’re at.
The Food Institute investigated exactly how the strategy works and why, exactly, brands are confidently entering this digital space:
WHAT IS THE METAVERSE?
The metaverse is a term used to describe a virtual environment in which people can use digital avatars to work, play, or shop, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal (April 5).
Wendy’s recently revealed it was teaming up with Horizon Worlds, a virtual reality game from Meta, to open the Wendyverse. Visitors can’t buy food there, but they can play a basketball-themed game located near the digital restaurant.
Metaverse this. Metaverse that. Welcome to the Wendyverse. pic.twitter.com/KnwTkkccrC
— Wendy’s (@Wendys) April 2, 2022
Chipotle has launched a somewhat similar initiative.
“We see our investment in the metaverse as an opportunity to create immersive experiences with our community,” Tressie Lieberman, VP, Digital and Off-Premise at Chipotle, told The Food Institute.
CHAINS’ MAIN MOTIVATION
“The full vision of the metaverse may be years away, but brands should start experimenting on what their metaverse presence will be now,” said Vishal Shah, Meta’s Vice President of Metaverse, in a press release.
Chipotle plans to introduce a game and new virtual restaurant in Roblox, an online game platform and storefront, which emulates the company’s original location in Denver. The first 100,000 Roblox players to successfully roll a burrito in the game will earn Burrito Bucks which can be exchanged for an entrée code that can be used at a real-life Chipotle location.
“We’ve tapped into play-to-earn, an emerging engagement model in the metaverse, to launch our newest experience on Roblox,” said Chris Brandt, Chief Marketing Officer, in a statement.
Chipotle loyalty program members can also trade in reward points for Roblox gift cards. The company will also make a burrito available for ordering in its app that includes ingredients voted on by Roblox users and others in a Twitter poll.
WHAT’RE THE BIGGEST BENEFITS?
There are several reasons food brands are entering the digital world.
“Now that we’ve established our presence on Roblox, we’re excited to continue activating on the platform and providing real value for Roblox users,” Chipotle’s Lieberman said. “Our presence on Roblox allows us to engage with our Gen Z … fans who are spending a lot of time on the platform.”
Prior to the launch of the Chipotle Boorito Maze last October, the chain noticed many users on the application were already creating Chipotle-themed experiences in virtual restaurants, making it a natural fit.
For Wendy’s, entering the metaverse is another way of digitally connecting with consumers. The fast-food brand is already known for its social media presence, particularly on Twitter.
“For years we’ve been meeting our fans in unexpected ways and places with our unique approach to social media, gaming and engagement,” said Carl Loredo, chief marketing officer for The Wendy’s Company, in a press release.
Wendy’s will track engagement metrics, such as how many people visit the virtual restaurant or post about it on social media, to gauge success, Loredo told The Wall Street Journal.