What Alexis Ohanian Really Thinks About Restaurants Joining The Metaverse

If you were to look at the evolution of the internet from a bird's eye view, or from the perspective of a child who's learning about its trajectory from a virtual infographic, you'd see just how rapidly it developed in a relatively short amount of time. Planned obsolescence is a darling of the digital age, which is why many of the cyber-related relics of our recent past — floppy discs, candy-colored iMacs, the term "information superhighway" — may sound foreign to Zoomers who have been exposed to screens their whole lives. 

As it continues to advance with the rise of virtual reality and blockchain technology like NFTs, the World Wide Web as we know it may be put out to pasture in place of Web3, or Web 3.0, which the Harvard Business Review summarizes as a "convenient shorthand for the project of rewiring how the web works, using blockchain to change how information is stored, shared, and owned." The Review adds that those who advocate for Web3 think it will "create new economies, new classes of products, and new services online," and that it will "return democracy to the web."

Such a powerful force will likely impact every realm of the economy, including the food and drink industry — but it will be up to individual businesses to decide how to use it. In his keynote speech at this year's National Restaurant Association Show, reported on by Nation's Restaurant News, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian prognosticated about how the expanding metaverse could affect restaurants.

Virtual dining has to bring something new to the table, says Ohanian

The metaverse — an indefinite term that in this case refers to technology that uses virtual and/or augmented reality to connect consumers and brands — has already caught up to restaurants in some ways. Take virtual food halls, like the one DoorDash recently opened in Brooklyn that allows diners to enjoy professionally cooked meals without engaging directly with a fellow human. One could also look to restaurants' increasingly ubiquitous QR code menus, which often allow diners to place orders digitally instead of waiting for their server.

The ways in which restaurants continue to merge with the metaverse could be revolutionary, but they don't have to completely knock out old-fashioned dining, said Alexis Ohanian in his 2022 National Restaurant Association Show speech, which was summarized by Nation's Restaurant News. "As a person who enjoys eating out in person, I think the experience [of virtual dining] is going to be so much better," he said. "The online experience will keep improving, but that means the stakes will also get higher and higher to make an online experience that's worth visiting instead of just dining in person." In other words, the Reddit co-founder thinks restaurants should avoid "investing in digital technology for the sake of it," even if the restaurant down the street is hopping on the trend. "You have to make sure you're bringing an experience to the table that's ten times better," he said.