Burger King dabbles in blockchain with WhopperCoin cryptocurrency

30 Aug 2017

A Burger King restaurant in Russia. Image: FotograFFF/Shutterstock

While bitcoin continues to ride high, Burger King in Russia looks like it wants in on the action by creating its own cryptocurrency.

Burger King is looking to go its own way among fast-food franchises after its Russian division announced that it is to introduce its own cryptocurrency: WhopperCoin.

Hosted on a platform provided by a blockchain developer called Waves, the cryptocurrency won’t exactly be a challenger to the likes of bitcoin or ether, but rather, a far more advanced loyalty system.

When introduced, a customer signed up to the new system will get one WhopperCoin for every rouble (€0.014c), and, for every 1,700 coins they collect, they get a free burger.

While this might just sound like a digitised loyalty system, Waves explained that it will act like a currency in that it can be freely transferred and traded online.

An ‘investment tool’

The aim is that customers can save their rewards, send them to friends or sell them to new buyers, thus providing a new marketing strategy.

Burger King plans to release an app that will allow people to start trading in the cryptocurrency next month, with the company’s head of external communications, Ivan Shestov, describing it as an “investment tool”.

Waves said that it has already generated a supply of 1bn coins, which should be enough to sustain the currency.

Most notable in this move is Burger King being one of the first major corporations to dabble in blockchain technology, suggesting that it could be using WhopperCoin as a test vehicle for other uses of the distributed ledger technology.

Limited use

Speaking with the BBC, Dr Garrick Hileman of the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance, said that Burger King will not be the only one to move into blockchain and cryptocurrency.

“Traditional loyalty programmes, such as airline miles, typically have a fairly limited range of exchange options,” he said, adding that it could be limited by the fact that it will only work with one company.

“I don’t imagine McDonald’s will be quick to allow someone to pay for a Big Mac with their WhopperCoins,” he said. “Burger King’s competitors are more likely to accept an independent cryptocurrency like bitcoin.”

As we have seen before, companies such as Maersk Line are looking at using blockchain’s ability to timestamp and track transactions in areas of business where this could be hugely important, such as supply chain and logistics.

It seems that Burger King, too, is testing the waters.

A Burger King restaurant in Russia. Image: FotograFFF/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic