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When will McDonald’s accept Bitcoin?

When will McDonald’s accept Bitcoin?

Every couple of years a new term enters the consciousness of an industry and, for a while, analysts and the media obsess over the impact it will have on the way their market acts and evolves.

When will McDonald’s accept Bitcoin?

A decade ago it was BYOD and the looser phrase, digital transformation. Remember when The Cloud was referred to with great confusion? Where was this Cloud of whom everyone spoke? Did the word ‘The’ always need to precede it? At some point, I’m sure each one of us tipped our heads back and searched the sky for a digital cloud.

There’s a predictable pattern; every time a new technology enters the market, articles discussing its influence grow in number until the phenomenon either disappears, confined to a scrapheap, or becomes accepted as commonplace. In the food and retail sectors digital ordering has been a huge focus for the last couple of years; that is now being adopted by businesses globally.

Right now cryptocurrency is preparing itself to be ‘the next big thing’ and for most, the term is as confusing as The Cloud once was. Sure, it’s digital money, but go deeper than that, explain the difference between Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH), start discussing blockchain, forking, hashes and mining and all but the most techy of us develop glazed eyes. All we really need to know right now is, what do we need to do about it?

Nothing. Yet.

The purported reason for the creation of cryptocurrency is to devise a decentralised currency and a viable alternative to the money in circulation now. Technically any business could begin to accept a cryptocurrency as a form of payment in the same way as they do credit or debit cards. Some already have, but the consensus is that their doing so has been a marketing ploy or gimmick. The reality is that the emergence of such currencies in everyday life will be slow.

Whether cryptocurrencies will ever be used widely comes down to accessibility and then critical mass. Mainstream adoption is essential; thousands, if not millions of us need to be using it to purchase goods and services.

Think back. It took years for businesses to accept contactless payments even though the technology was available, and much of that was because of a lack of demand. Despite a very memorable ad campaign from Barclays (recall the office worker jumping into a water flume to get home?), limited understanding and privacy concerns held many consumers back from adopting the technology. While it still seemed consumers didn’t want to pay via contactless, businesses didn’t want to invest in the technology to make such payments possible.

For the user, mining or trading cryptocurrency is much, much more complicated than contactless ever was; the market is volatile and prices yoyo dramatically. For the operator, the difficulty liquidating some cryptocurrencies leaves them open to financial risks including revenue instability and sluggish operations. Despite this, it’s to the hospitality and retail markets that the world is looking while deciding whether cryptocurrency is here to stay. I’ve already stated that for crypto to go mainstream, it needs to reach a tipping point where it can then be spent easily and conveniently. For that to happen, either customers need to demand it, or a large food or retail store needs to loudly declare that they are accepting it. If well-known operators are seen to accept it, liquidity and usability will surge.

Long-term, success might lie in the hands of the food and retail industry, but if crypto payments start to take-off, we are likely to see it happen in the world’s poorer countries first. These will be the testing grounds. The originators of Electroneum (ETN), Britain’s home-grown cryptocurrency, asserts that it can be used to unlock the global economy for more than 1.7 billion unbanked people worldwide. ETN is already far easier than Bitcoin for Everyday Joes to get hold of; a phone app can ‘mine’ ETN as the user sleeps. While acceptance is still extremely limited, people in Brazil and South Africa can now use this particular currency to top up their phone credit. Furthermore, the ETN team hopes it will soon be used for transactions in retail stores in these regions. Could it be ETN and not the ubiquitous BTC that leads to a retail tipping point?

If crypto was to take off, there would be some benefits to operators. Despite being unregulated (at the moment), the use of ultra secure blockchain technology to manage transactions all but obliterates fraud and prevents illegal chargebacks. As a universal currency, not tied to any bank, it would make trade and spending by international visitors far easier. Supposedly, transaction fees would also be much lower than with credit cards.

Brian Fischer, the co-owner and director of business development at American restaurant, Buffalo Pizza & Ice Cream Co, said last year that it should be easy for larger restaurant chains to accept cryptocurrency as it requires little training. His restaurant uses an app integrated with its point-of-sales system to conduct crypto transactions, though there’s no word on how much he has processed to date.

For fans of cryptocurrency, the truth is that there’s an uphill battle to face before it can be considered for mass adoption. At the moment, just 17 pubs and restaurants in the UK take it. Government regulations are needed and a much more stable trading market for starters. But just because it hasn’t taken off yet, doesn’t mean it never will. Who could have ever imagined the use of square plastic cards as a form of money exchange before its introduction in 1950?

In the last few years McDonald’s has widely been considered a trailblazer in terms of payments and has championed the mobile ordering movement of which Preoday is a technology leader. Perhaps then, we should look to them and instead ask, when will McDonald’s accept Bitcoin?

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