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A restaurant in Milan is testing a new model of payment that allows customers to use Instagram followers as currency.
This is Not a Sushi Bar, in Italy, Milan, will now allow customers with over 1,000 follows on social media to pay for plates with a post. How does it work? Customers who have 1000-5000 followers will be offered one free plate of food. For two free plates you have to be packing a 5-10k followers. Anyone between 10 - 50k will be offered four free plates of food and for eight three plates you need to rocking between 50-100k followers. If you’re some sort of power user with over 100,000 followers, your entire meal will be free.
This is an odd way of attracting customers, especially when you realize the founder behind the idea, Matteo Pittarello, wants to make the promotion a permanent thing. He told Metro: “We intend to make this formula permanent. As far as we know, we should be the first in the world to use this approach in a structured way.” He added “we want to become the first cashless chain, trying new ways of payment.”
This line is what sparks the most questions, as a promotion to get some exposure, like the very article you’re reading now, it seems a great idea and an obvious sucesss. However, as a future business model to run a sushi restaurant, how does it work? A cashless restaurant that accepts followers as currency might struggle to pay their purveyor at the fish market. Their argument is that because 90% of their business is from delivery they can afford to take a hit on promoting their restaurant location.
Ok, it's top PR work from some savy marketers, but have we not had enough of the whole influencer stuff? What about the obvious ethical questions around the idea: are people posting for a free food really going to be honest about what they eat? There’s no mention about whether a post has to be positive, however, from the happy pics of so-called influencers who’ve paid with their following, all post positively for their plate.
There’s some weird dystopian overtone to the whole idea. Pittarello said that people who are not influencers can still visit the restaurant, “they can just pay normally” but one can’t help recalling the episode of Black Mirror in which a woman slowly slips down the social, economic, psychological and eventually medical ladder all because she doesn’t have enough likes on her social account.