Shake Shack starts serving Bitcoin to app users

Shake Shack has launched a new rewards program using cryptocurrency

Popular burger chain Shake Shack has launched a new Bitcoin-based rewards program in an effort to attract younger consumers and test potential for long-term adoption.

Crypto-based rewards programs are becoming increasingly popular within the restaurant industry as brands look for new and innovative ways to engage with consumers and build their technological cred. Cryptocurrency is giving fast food and fast casual chains new ways to reward, and attract, consumers.

Shake Shack will begin offering rewards of up to 15% in the form of Bitcoin for all payments made via Cash Card, a debit card available through Cash App. Cash App is a blockchain-based payment system owned by Block, Inc (formerly Square).

The chain, which currently operates 280 locations across the United States, is launching its crypto rewards program in an effort to draw the attention of younger, more tech-savvy consumers. The promotional deal, which will be available until mid-March, is something of a trial run for Shake Shack – an attempt to gauge whether or not cryptocurrency might have a practical, long-term role to play in the brand’s business model.

The rise of cryptocurrency in recent years has caught the attention of the entire business world. Last year Starbucks launched a program in partnership with digital wallet app Bakkt enabling customers to convert Bitcoin to dollars and then load those funds on to their Starbucks cards, which are accessible via the Starbucks app.

Also in 2021, Burger King partnered with investment app Robinhood to launch a crypto-based loyalty program, rewarding customers with a deposit of cryptocurrency into their Robinhood accounts for every purchase over five dollars. According to QSR Magazine, the Burger King/Robinhood promotional detail resulted in a 30% increase in downloads for Burger King’s app.

Cryptocurrency is a component of web3, an umbrella term used to describe our society’s slow but gradual shift to decentralized networks of communication (as opposed to the top-down structures that have prevailed during the age of the internet as we’ve come to know it). Web3 offers a host of other opportunities for businesses, including the much-talked-about non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Big retail brands such as Gucci, Adidas and Balenciaga were quick to adopt NFTs as a digital commodity that could give consumers a deeper, more authentic and more personal sense of connection with the brands. Fast food brands including Taco Bell, McDonald’s and Pizza Hut have also launched NFTs in an effort to cash in on the craze.

According to TJ Leonard, chief executive officer of Storyblocks, the new program from Shake Shack is part of a wider trend towards digital that is likely to spread throughout the QSR industry: "More than just cryptocurrency, you can expect brands to try and extend their value wherever their core demographics experience it," says Leonard. "As more of our daily activities transfer into the digital realm, there should be an expectation that more rewards will take a digital form in general."

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