NEWTON, Mass.—Eighteen percent of restaurant consumers have participated in the metaverse, while 20% are familiar with the digital environment, according to a new report from PYMNTS and Paytronix. The grab-and-go customer seems to be the most open to the metaverse, with 33% of grab-and-go customers being very or extremely familiar with the metaverse, more than double the share of either dine-in or either-or customers.
Of those who participate in the metaverse, 38% are interested in it would be willing to integrate restaurant purchases into this environment, including a majority of grab-and-go customers. Twenty-one percent of consumers who say they are not interested in buying food in the metaverse are not interested because they are either unfamiliar with it or believe the metaverse is complicated.
When looking at the millennial and Gen Z generations specifically, participation rates in the metaverse rise—34% of millennials and 27% of Gen Z have already participated in the metaverse. Also, consumers who earn over $100,000 annually are more likely than those of other income brackets to have participated in a metaverse environment.
“Before restaurants become well-versed with the metaverse, however, they must focus on their current customers, and a majority say that friendly waitstaff and staff continuity at their favorite eateries are some of the most important factors that keep bringing them back,” wrote Paytronix and PYMNTS in a news release.
More than 33% of consumers say that friendliness is the most important thing a restaurant can provide, and nearly 75% say that seeing the same staff every time they visit a restaurant positively influences their experience.
“The media landscape is already scattered, creating a massive fight for attention. Brands are vying for spots on Google search, in Facebook feeds, on Apple screens, and on any of dozens of different social sites. The metaverse represents the next battleground,” said Michelle Tempesta, CMO of Paytronix. “Loyalty programs open a direct line of communication between brands and customers that only continues to grow in importance. Customers want to maintain a strong relationship with their favorite brands, regardless of where that happens.”
Consumers are metaverse curious. Eighty-three percent of consumers show interest in making purchases via the metaverse, according to research from Accenture, while 42% of survey respondents said they had visited a retailer in the virtual world to get advice, make a payment or browse a product range when shopping for a physical item. Fifty-six percent of respondents plan to in the next year. Among millennials, these figures increase to 51% and 61%, respectively.
Restaurants are experimenting in the metaverse. Last year, Chipotle built a restaurant on Roblox’s gaming platform for a Halloween promotion, and the fast-casual restaurant is now launching a game and new virtual restaurant on the same platform. The restaurant looks like Chipotle’s original restaurant in Denver, and up to 100,000 players who successfully roll a virtual burrito in the game will earn “Burrito Bucks” good for real food at Chipotle restaurants in the real world.
Chipotle loyalty program members also can trade in their reward points for Roblox gift cards on Chipotle’s app or website, plus Chipotle is making a special burrito available for order in the app that includes ingredients voted on by Roblox users and others in a Twitter poll.
“This is a place we want to play,” Chris Brandt, chief marketing officer at Chipotle, told the Wall Street Journal. “We want to remain a leader here, and we’ll continue to experiment without a doubt.”
Wendy’s recently opened a virtual restaurant in Horizon Worlds, the virtual reality game from Meta. McDonald’s has reportedly filed patents with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that would allow it to open a virtual restaurant in the metaverse that would deliver food online and in person. Chick-fil-A filed patents for a “Moo-taverse.”