Wow Bao Launches Hot Bun Vending Machine In The Metaverse

You can now visit a hot bun vending machine in the metaverse.

No, this isn’t a plotline from the sequel to Hot Tub Time Machine, but the next chapter in the continuing push by digital-forward restaurant chain Wow Bao to expand into the Metaverse and web3. The company, which launched its NFT program a year ago, announced last week that Wow Bao has launched on Roblox, a hugely popular virtual gaming platform with over 200 million monthly global users. According to Wow Bao, their launch on Roblox marks the first time that a fast-casual restaurant has launched in the Metaverse with a loyalty program that gives away in-real-life perks.

Those physical, non-digital perks come in the form of a free box of Wow Bao products, which a player qualifies for once they enter the Wow Bao game (called Dim Sum Palace) on Roblox, complete a couple of achievements, and connect their Wow Bao loyalty program (called the Hot Buns Club). Those without a Hot Buns loyalty club membership are instructed how to join, a process that involves leaving the game, getting the loyalty website URL from from a pinned post on Wow Bao’s Twitter profile, and signing up.

With a free box of Wow Bao on offer, I decided to join Roblox and check out Dim Sum Palace. I found the mini-game slick, but after I finished my achievements—earning a bao-themed headdress and a coupon for a free box of Wow Bao—I didn’t have much to do. The most time-consuming part was signing up for and connecting to my Wow Bao loyalty account (which, to be fair, went quickly after I jumped off to Twitter and found the URL).

Stepping back, it’s worth asking why the fast-casual Asian food chain is spending all of this time and resources to create a Metaverse game that likely won’t result in any significant customer revenue in the near future. According to Wow Bao CEO Geoff Alexander, the push into the Metaverse is a long-term play that they believe will pay off as more and more gamers look to garner IRL rewards for their Metaverse exploration.

“One of the things Wow Bao has always wanted to do is be wherever the consumer is,” Alexander told The Spoon. “There are a large number of people who game, and nobody’s talking to them.”

How is Wow Bao going to attract Roblox players to its Minigame? Alexander said they plan to raise awareness through paid advertising in Roblox, discovery on the home screen, and the giveaway of 10,000 UGC.

The company worked with production studio Sawhorse Productions, which developed the mini-game, and loyalty tech companies Flaunt and Paytronix to integrate their rewards program into Roblox. The company also continued to work with Devour for their Web3 ordering.

The risk for Wow Bao is that they invest in building a Metaverse presence, and, as we’ve seen with many brand efforts over the past few years, engagement remains low and overly complex for the average user, and eventually, they exit. According to Alexander, the company thinks being patient will ultimately pay off.

“Anything that you do new and technology takes time for adoption,” Alexander said. “We’re betting that the adoption will come. Today, it might be small. Tomorrow might be a little bit bigger. It might fall, and then it might come back. We’re in for the long game.”