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If you haven’t heard of Pokémon Go yet, you will. Using your phone’s GPS and camera the augmented reality app encourages you to search for small Japanese fictional characters called Pokémon (you may remember previous games and an animated series, and even a themed restaurant) in your everyday environment. It’s now the most popular mobile game in US history, with more users than Twitter and better engagement than Facebook, and the company behind it, Nintendo, has seen its shares rise 50%. It has also been linked to the discovery of a corpse and a series of robberies. It’s a big deal.
Why does this matter to the food world? Well, food and drink venues are taking advantage of the enormous success of Pokémon Go. Those lucky enough to be designated a PokeStop, i.e. the specific site where users go to catch a Pokémon, or close by to one, have seen a significant increase in business – as much as 75% in some cases – with some diners even making restaurant choices based on Pokémon Go, according to Business Insider and some becoming disgruntled at a lack of Pokémon (the example below is toungue in cheek – we think).
From outside the restaurant where we ate dinner tonight. There was a PokeStop next door with lure constantly active. pic.twitter.com/cfQ05yIdl8— Steve Lubitz (@WickedGood) July 11, 2016
Did y'all think I was joking pic.twitter.com/uA9P2Wbb7z— ♡Erica♡ (@ericaaaburt) July 12, 2016
Venues can also buy Lure Modules for $1 a pop, which attract Pokémon for 30 minutes, and subsequently, real live human beings. These Lure Modules can then be promoted to entice customers, through discounts or rewards for capturing rare Pokémon. There are also team rivalries brewing (you can join a team reaching a certain level). Of course, there are already disgruntled business owners banning non-paying Pokémon users from their establishments in a kind of updated “Toilets are for paying customers only”–type rule, or banning Pokémon hunters altogether. But others, like Tangui, a Chinese restaurant in Sydney, are fully committed.
The app is yet to receive a full international release due to technical problems caused by an unprecedented number of downloads, but Pokémon Go is a fiendishly addictive phenomenon and while we can’t really imagine top end restaurants getting in on the act, it will be interesting to see how this one plays out – when will the backlash begin we wonder?
Watch the video below and take a step into the Pokémon Go world, but be warned, you might never come back.