(Bloomberg) -- Ray Al-Malt spent much of his Tuesday in Orlando, Florida, preparing for rain and high-speed winds soon to be swept in by Hurricane Ian. A post on Reddit brought a glimmer of hope.
There, the 31-year-old saw an announcement about a 99.95% discount for Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. The only catch: he had to pay the remaining 0.05% in Ether. Happily, he obliged.
Chipotle dubbed the promotion “Proof of Steak.” The campaign was a nod to the Ethereum blockchain software upgrade completed earlier this month. The “Merge” transferred the crypto network from a proof-of-work to a proof-of-stake model, hence the promotion’s name.
The Ethereum Foundation estimated the upgrade would cut the network’s energy usage by 99.95% by replacing scores of computers known as miners that were used to validate transactions. The discount, redeemable for up to $20, ended Thursday night, once customers redeemed $20,000 in bowls, burritos and tacos. Otherwise, the deal would have lasted until Tuesday, Oct. 4.
The campaign provided a rare use-case for digital tokens spent like any other currencies. A suite of companies, including Gucci and Microsoft, have said they will accept cryptocurrencies as payment. Chipotle announced in June that customers could pay with cryptocurrency.
“Our overarching goal is to build and reach the next generation of Chipotle fans in the Web3 community by driving culture and difference with activations like ‘Proof of Steak’ that provide real value to the community,” wrote Chris Brandt, Chipotle’s chief marketing officer.
Chipotle partnered with Flexa, a digital payments company, for the campaign. According to a Chipotle representative, the Flexa-enabled app, SPEDN, lets users create digital gift cards for payment. As a result, Chipotle employees could scan the offer as a QR code.
That workaround meant that crew members did not need to know about the “Proof of Steak” offer to provide the discount. Four out of five managers interviewed during an informal poll at Chipotle restaurants in Manhattan said they did not know the promotion was taking place.
Other customers said that they could not retrieve the discount. Brandt, Chipotle’s CMO, told Bloomberg that they had received complaints on the first day of the promotion but added that these issues had “since been resolved.”
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