Blockchain and cryptocurrencies continue to make inroads into the mainstream, as more institutions of all shapes and sizes recognize how useful they can be in bolstering their operations.

The latest to be won over by the technology and the coins it underpins is Burger King. It announced in August that its restaurants in Russia are at the forefront of its entry into the space, and the idea it has to bring customers into the crypto space fold is impressive to say the least.

As it makes its entry into the crypto space, Burger King is not just using Blockchain. Many companies are using the technology, given its iron clad nature in recording and keeping track of transactions. Burger King is going a step further and creating its own coin.

The WhopperCoin

Affectionately named after its most popular burger, WhopperCoins can be used in two ways. Customers receive one WhopperCoin for every $1 they spend at Burger King. Once they accrue 1,700 coins, they get a free Whopper.

That’s nice, but clearly not that great of a deal. You have to spend up to $1,700 at Burger King to get a free Whopper. No matter, this is part of Burger King’s loyalty program. The fact that the chain is basing the program on the crypto craze is brilliant in a way because it is bound to attract the many who are curious about this new-fangled currency that is taking the world by storm.

In addition to the allure of a free burger, customers who sign up for this loyalty program will receive the full benefits that go with any other digital coins. Customers’ WhopperCoins will be treated like any other cryptocurrency. That means holders will be able to save, transfer and trade them online. Sharing or selling with friends or new buyers are more examples of how Burger King’s coins can be used.

How it works

For now, the initiative is only being run by Burger King Russia. WhopperCoins have already been issued, with a supply of one billion. If more are needed, more can be issued. Specifically, customers will receive WhopperCoins for roubles (1 USD = 59 RUB).

Being a Blockchain token allows it to be transferred and traded. Plans are to release an app for the loyalty program in the Apple Store and on Google Play in September 2017.

Burger King chose Waves as the platform to launch the loyalty program and distribute the WhopperCoins. Waves’ distributed ledger network will power WhopperCoin transactions.

Surprised industry players

The news that a fast food restaurant was creating its own cryptocurrency immediately made headlines. Ivan Shestov, head of external communications at Burger King Russia, told CNBC that the Whopper had become an investment tool.

“According to the forecasts, cryptocurrency will increase exponentially in value. Eating Whoppers now is a strategy for financial prosperity tomorrow,” Shestov said.

KCD Public relations said it sees Burger King’s move as the start of mainstream cryptocurrency adoption by non-financial entities.

Others have pointed out that Burger King’s entry into the crypto space via a loyalty program is a good use case.

Garrick Hileman, a research fellow at the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance, told that Burger King was the first major corporate brand to issue its own “crypto-cash” and he expected more to follow in its footsteps.

"Traditional loyalty programs, such as airline miles, typically have a fairly limited range of exchange options," he said. The ease with which the branded crypto-currencies could be traded for other national currencies or even other assets could make them "more compelling" than a standard loyalty scheme, he added.