Article originally published on 11 January 2022 on NSS Magazine: https://www.nssmag.com/it/pills/28608/primo-ristorante-nft-soldout
No matter what you think about them, it’s getting impossible to ignore the news about NFT’s. Up until now, the blockchain technology that allows ownership of artwork through the purchase and sale of tokens has been flooded with interest from the art and design community. Now with the impending opening of the first NFT (Non-Fungible Token) restaurant the possibilities are starting to become clearer, and quite impressive.
The first NFT restaurant memberships are already sold out and an opening date hasn’t even been announced yet.
In New York, the first NFT restaurant, The Flyfish Club, is set to be opened by the VCR Group led by Gary Vaynerchuck, known affectionately to his fans as “Gary V” of Vaynerchuk Media. The massive figure is known around social media for his steadfast commitment to encouraging entrepreneurship, giving direction to the younger generations, and his uncanny market predictions. As one of the original investors in Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and Snapchat who got his start selling wine at his immigrant Russian family’s shop in New Jersey, Gary V’s tempered experience draws attention across demographics.
In May 2021 the master of networking and digital media announced he would be opening the first NFT restaurant, and on January 3rd 2022 sent out a pre-sale notice announcing that on Friday January 7th there would be 1151 NFT’s available for purchase, in addition to the 350 sold in a presale on December 15th 2021, that would not only give ownership to the purchaser of the artwork, but add the practical value of granting the owner entrance to an exclusive sushi restaurant club, accessible only to NFT holders of this collection. An additional 1534 tokens were held on reserve by members of the company.
The digital NFT art is made up of a selection of Omakase sushi that corresponds to actual menu items that will be available to order in the Omakase room of the restaurant. Due to open in New York in a still undisclosed location, the restaurant is promised to be a state-of-the-art members-only club in a plush spot in the international city. Two levels of membership are available depending on the NFT purchased. The lower tier Flyfish Club membership offers options ranging from $7.9k $12.5k dollars (2.5-3.9 Ether) and gives basic access to the club. The more exclusive tier that would allow members into the private Omakase Room of the restaurant was selling for between $13.5k - $24k (4.2-7.4 Ether) and in all cases, diners still pay for their meal.
The sale was held on the company's website and was available to purchase in Ethereum, the most widely accepted and used token for purchasing NFTs. The pre-sale notice arrived only days before the actual sale as an email and made sure users were provided with the links, dates, and all of the relevant information. In addition, light instructions were also included on how to purchase Ethereum tokens (Ether) for those who may be new to the NFT or even cryptocurrency world - a clear indication of NFT’s crossover potential to create interest within communities that had not previously never considered or may even be skeptical of digital currency and the metaverse.
Bidding started at 11:00am EST and the entire collection sold out within hours. Almost immediately after the tokens were being traded for double - all still considering that the exact opening date of the restaurant has yet to even be announced.
What does an NFT restaurant mean for the food industry..and literally everybody else?
When Gary V announced the project, there was speculation on what an NFT restaurant would actually look like and now seeing it in action, one can’t help wonder how we took so long to get here.
While most of us are still trying to wrap our heads around the technology and even the NFT terminology, the practical benefits of an NFT restaurant on these terms are crystal clear: ownership, exclusivity, community, sponsorship, and support of artisans and artists.
How so? There are already hundreds of thousands of communities that follow various artists or traders and the number is growing within the NFT world. The purchase, in a sense, connects you to a specific community. Until recently, the community has always been virtual but with the concept of a physical club, exclusive to a set number of NFT owners, the added value of a community becomes very real. When you add a restaurant to the equation, the potential grows exponentially.
For example, if the original owner and seller of the NFT collection is also the owner of a restaurant and the residual income is used to run and support the restaurant, there is motivation for the buyer that feels they are sponsoring their favorite chefs while also giving a sense of ownership over a physical space. Perennial support of artisans and artists could be possible through the increasing market value of the NFT, not only through the buying and selling of the NFT on the marketplace but depending on the press the restaurant club itself receives.
From NFT art to real life.
To connect the virtual world to the real one, the Flyfish team thought ahead about the NFT design, linking the artistic options in the collection to actual menu items proposed for the restaurant. If someone has a favorite menu item, it’s already possible for them to show off their preference by purchasing their favorite virtual Omakase.
It’s not only restaurants that will benefit from this unique purchasing experience, but any community that wishes to connect offline, through a mutually beneficial and exclusive relationship. The Bored Ape Yacht Club, known in jargon simply by its acronym, “BAYC” is one of the most notorious examples of an online digital privè. A virtual private club, the only way to gain entrance into the BAYC is to be the owner of one of the coveted BAYC tokens from the 10,000 piece collection, with a single NFT now valued at a billion dollars.
Many collections come in 10,000 pieces and are traded like playing cards.The determined value of a collection can differ depending on a number of factors but one thing is clear: NFT’s have the power to activate communities in a practical sense for the long and short term and even sustain them.
The cross-over: an opportunity for chefs and artists.
The Soho House concept is an excellent case that demonstrates how artists are willing to invest in their network and share their success, eager to connect with other creatives of the same caliber and interests. Chefs and artists are often one in the same, many of them crossing between the two passions. Now as the crossover becomes digital with the first ever NFT restaurant, the opportunity to evolve these interests and combine them is not only possible, it also has the potential to be extremely lucrative.
The creative eyes and ears of the restaurant industry should be firmly fixed on the project as it develops. More than an opportunity for the restaurant industry to evolve, the concept of an NFT restaurant could be the key to its salvation.