The Metaverse is a concept that you might associate with other worlds, not the earthliness and physicality of food.
Of course, there is only so far a restaurant or caterer can go in recreating the dining experience in a virtual setting. However, the foodservice industry is still getting involved in the Metaverse, as you’re about to see!
This article will give you a handy overview of how the foodservice industry is making the Metaverse work for them, from training to window shopping, advertising, and unique customer experiences.
Patents and supply chains
Like sailors looking to the sky to predict the weather or how smoke tends to signal fire is coming, there are signs that the foodservice industry will increase its hands in the Metaverse.
You only need to look at who has registered Metaverse related patents. Already, in February 2020, McDonald’s has filed multiple Metaverse-based patents, primarily for virtual food services, including a virtual restaurant that offers online food delivery. BareBurger claims to be the first NFT restaurant, and Panera Bread has filed for its ‘Paneraverse,’ which includes virtual food items and NFTs.
Then, of course, there’s the industry's increased utilization of blockchain technology. Blockchain is the integral concept behind NFTs and a crucial part of the success of the Metaverse.
Blockchain builds trust in the supply chain for the foodservice industry. For example, IBM is implementing an industry-leading IoT program that utilizes blockchain to secure supply chains. Firstly, it takes away the need for central control and management. And, of course, it secures transactions, making every payment process verifiable.
And significantly for the foodservice industry, blockchain can store the temperatures, position, arrival times, and status of deliveries as they move.
Of course, blockchain and NFTs aren’t interchangeable with the Metaverse. However, they are closely related and tend to be not far behind each other. So, it’s a sign that the foodservice industry isn’t afraid of the brave new world of tech!
VR training already exists in many industries. And with the advent of the Metaverse, it’s going to boom. Just look at Walmart. They’re transforming the way they train their talent.
Walmart stores across the U.S. have 17,000 Oculus Go VR headsets equipped with Strivr training. Associates will be able to access training on-demand, with fewer needing to travel to academies. More than 1.4 million of their associates will benefit from their VR training programs this year.
The results have been very impressive. Employees that underwent VR training reported 30% higher employee satisfaction, scored higher on tests 70% of the time, and logged a 10 to 15% higher rate of knowledge retention than before VR.
This is good for the foodservice industry as you can teach kitchen staff without using raw, costly ingredients; it means you can train waiting staff to navigate busy nights, and to learn new floor plans and operations.
It might seem far-fetched, but it’s happening. As you can see from Walmart’s example, it leads to greater retention and higher employee satisfaction. Plus, it also means you can train people remotely.
The key thing about VR training is it highlights how people learn differently. Some of us are visual learners. Some of us prefer being hands-on. Others are engaged more by what they hear. And what the Metaverse does is bring all that together!
One idea the events world could, and should, be stealing from this is virtual cook-a-long/workshops. These could work as relevant industry learning experiences or fun breakout sessions. It could be just the light entertainment that secures on-the-fence attendees. And if you have it hosted by a celebrity guest, the kudos of your event will skyrocket!
Virtual tours and window shopping
The Metaverse might end up playing a part in how guests decide where to host their event. Caterers and venue owners will be able to faithfully replicate their establishments in the virtual world. Meaning you’ll be able to visit and inspect them at your leisure.
The world of catering is a competitive market space. One thing that could set you apart from your competition is VR tours or experiences of your catering service.
Perhaps a virtual viewing of their service and their dishes–a 3D model of a dish could be a more significant selling point than a menu description–could land your custom at an establishment.
Or perhaps you’ve already decided you like the look of the food at a particular place. You could then visit it in the Metaverse before anyway, allowing you to determine where you want to sit! Pretty cool, right?
So yes–hopefully–the Metaverse will revolutionize how clientele choose where they eat out. Doing virtual tours of restaurants in your holiday destination sounds so much more exciting than reading boring old website copy and Yelp reviews, right?
Unique experiences and advertising
The foodservice industry has already jumped on the concept of providing experiences in the Metaverse–primarily as a means of marketing.
First out of the blocks was Chipotle in October 2021, when they opened a virtual store on Roblox. Another fantastic example was with McDonald’s, who collaborated with Opening Ceremony, creating an interactive exhibit to celebrate the Lunar New Year in January this year. Then there was Miller Lite’s Metaverse bar at the Superbowl in February 2022.
So, in the future, expect big hitters to mark special occasions with unique Metaverse experiences for their customers! And as the Metaverse and VR headsets become more widespread, these experiences will become standard, not just to celebrate significant occasions like the Superbowl!
What the above examples show is that big names in the catering industry are always looking for bespoke advertising experiences. So, if you’re planning a cool event, reach out to some adventurous company and ask them if they’d like to collaborate on a cool branded Metaverse experience. It will boost your income and give your event more depth!
Now, there is a limit to how much the Metaverse can impact the food service industry. Because no matter how far technology develops or how pervasive the Metaverse becomes over society, you can’t eat something digital.
So authentic virtual restaurants are not something you should hold your breath waiting for. However, it can go some of the way. An example to have a look at is Colossalbit’s MetaTerrace–the mixed reality lounge in Dubai–which was a groundbreaking virtual bar and restaurant.
Or take McDonald’s, for instance. They’re building virtual restaurants where you can order food to be delivered. It’s not any more convenient than ordering on your phone, but you can’t deny it’s fun. As for what virtual restaurants will look like in the future, who knows!
So, as you know going into this article, there are limits to how far you can replicate the dining experience in the virtual realm.
However, this doesn’t stop the foodservice industry from utilizing the Metaverse for things like training, marketing, window shopping, and unique experiences.