By 2030, the metaverse will be a $626bn opportunity according to GlobalData. When it comes to the food sector, the argument you hear from the most sceptical is that you simply cannot eat in the metaverse. While that is very true, several fast-food chains have proven the power of this technology, entering the market with skilful advertising and customer engagement strategies. And it is moves like this that have made food brands the most daring in the metaverse marketplace.
Burritos go virtual
In 2022, Chipotle Mexican Grill launched its ‘Chipotle Burrito Builder’, a play-to-earn simulation experience on ROBLOX where players challenge themselves to roll burritos in the metaverse. Interestingly, the 1990s-themed layout of the virtual location was inspired by the first Chipotle restaurant in Denver, Colorado. Also, Roblox players can wear 1990s-inspired uniforms. Moreover, the food brand’s market strategy also involved the launch of a burrito chosen by Roblox fans after a poll was launched on Twitter. It also unveiled a new menu item, the Garlic Guajillo Steak, through the Chipotle Grill Simulator in the metaverse.
The ultimate aim of the game is to encourage customers to earn enough Burrito Bucks (Chipotle’s currency on Roblox) and eventually exchange them for real-world items. And, by sharing its culinary traditions, the company is exploring novel avenues of engagement with its fans, creating a bridge between the national restaurant brand and the metaverse community.
McDonald’s and the Chinese Lunar New Year
In 2022, the fast-food chain kicked off the year with the ‘McDonald’s Hall of Zodiacs: 2022 Lunar New Year with Humberto Leon’. During the Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations, the company created—in partnership with Humberto Leon—an immersive virtual reality experience, hosted on Spatial and AltspaceVR, featuring a collection of zodiac animal designs.
Within the platform, fans could receive horoscope readings and future predictions for the year ahead and play classic Chinese games. There were also statues of the 12 zodiac signs inspired by Chinese carvings and lanterns. This virtual event showed another way for foodservice brands to expand their reach by deploying the metaverse.
Wendy’s lands in the metaverse with bacon bridges, flying biscuits, and spoon ramps
A notable metaverse investor in the foodservice sector is the fast-food restaurant chain Wendy’s. The company created the ‘Wendyverse’ within Meta’s Horizon Worlds in 2022. The Wendyverse consists of a virtual restaurant located in the Wendyverse Town Square Central where players can meet people or chat over the counter. Moreover, avatars can visit the Buck BiscuitDome and play basketball with a virtual Baconator, the brand’s famous burger. A few months later, the company launched Sunrise City, a breakfast-themed obstacle course, including a castle, bacon bridges, flying biscuits, and paragliding on a breakfast potato. The Wendyverse hub world did not stop there but added the Frosty Village, characterised by French fry skis and spoon ramps.
Wendy’s is already well-known for its marketing approach based on social media, gaming, and customer engagement. Its strategy in the metaverse is similar, connecting the gaming platform with the real world through promotions for several of its products—including snacks, sausage or egg & cheese biscuits, or breakfast sandwiches—via the app or in restaurants.
All these examples show that the metaverse has the potential to foster food brands’ relationship with users in a virtual environment, allow them to advertise themselves, and then capitalise on it when consumers spend their earned promotions at real-life restaurants. Nevertheless, this technology is still in its infancy and only time will tell if it pays off.