If you order a double whip-less mochaccino, half-caff: $6.00. Paying for it in bitcoin: $21 (at the current processing fee).
This is why many experts are saying that cryptocurrencies — or at least bitcoin — have no place in small dollar, day-to-day transactions like buying a coffee — that, and the amount of time it takes to process a payment, which is long enough for a hot coffee to cool, or for that mochaccino to melt.
However, two things are changing this perception, the lighting network that allows small transfers to not go to the main blockchain, and coffee-loving crypto-heads that aren’t giving up that easily. Starbucks is a marquee example, but by no means the only one, of coffee shops that are working toward accepting cryptocurrency payments.
In fact, there are already a handful of shops taking such payments today. Each one has its own approach and rationale. However, it remains to be seen whether these strategies could scale for an international chain the size of Starbucks — or whether they even make sense for customers.
Here’s a look at a few of the businesses around the world that are accepting cryptocurrency now, or may soon start: why they’re doing it, and how it’s working out for them.
Israeli coffee shop chain Café Joe announced this week that it would be accepting bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies at Café Joe USA locations.
The payments will be powered by Coinbase Commerce, an integrated payment system by cryptocurrency exchange and storage platform Coinbase, which reportedly addresses the long transfer lines and high transaction fees to simplify crypto-based purchases.
The company said in statement the decision was not based on demand so much as it was based on an ideal that bitcoin could attain usefulness in consumers’ everyday lives — a vision Café Joe noted “has been an aspirational goal for many early adopters of cryptocurrencies.”
This Southeast Asian cryptocurrency café went one step further: Launched in Indonesia and Singapore in December 2017, Ducatus Café does not accept cash, cards or even Apple Pay. Instead, transactions must be completed using either bitcoin or the café’s own digital currency, Ducatus.
In part, the café was actually developed to give investors in Ducatus (launched January 2017) somewhere to spend the coins. However, the company told Reuters its goal is to demonstrate that bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies can be used in everyday business and not just market speculation.
No bitcoin? No problem: The café features an in-store cryptocurrency ATM where customers can trade their cash for bitcoin or Ducatus.
Points earned through the Melbourne-based restaurant and café loyalty program Liven will be converted into LivenCoin, a proprietary cryptocurrency that customers can spend anywhere within Liven’s network. Diners earn points equivalent to 25 percent of their spend.
What’s interesting about this approach is that customers don’t have to return to the same restaurant to use the rewards. They could earn points at 8Bit Burgers and redeem them at Nene Chicken, or earn them at Massi and spend them at Roll’d. These participating food chains pay Liven a 25 percent commission on each transaction made on the Liven platform.
Thus, instead of inspiring loyalty to a single restaurant or chain, Liven’s goal (and the value-add for restaurants on the platform) is to expose customers to businesses they may not have encountered if they didn’t have points to redeem there.
Customers will also have the option to sell their LivenCoins on open cryptocurrency exchanges if they don’t want to redeem it at any of the restaurants.
Despite statements by Starbucks Executive Chairman Howard Schultz suggesting that a digital currency such as bitcoin could be used in conjunction with the coffee chain’s mobile payments app, it’s not yet confirmed whether Starbucks plans to start accepting cryptocurrency payments for its lattes.
However, the international chain is definitely exploring the space. It announced last week that it was starting a blockchain pilot program with farmers in Costa Rica, Colombia and Rwanda in an effort to track the “bean-to-cup” journey and connect coffee drinkers with the farmers who grow the beans.
This move will likely play well for Starbucks in the media, as it demonstrates the company wants to create products that are good for people and for the planet — and use blockchain to offer transparency into that process.
However, it doesn’t bring the café any closer to accepting bitcoin as payment in its stores or on its app, leaving the world still without any significant players who are offering everyday crypto capabilities.