Meals And The Metaverse: An Unlikely Pairing That Go Together Like Peanut Butter And Jelly At first glance, dining and digital realms appear to have little in common but, as our technology and social habits continue to evolve, they may just turn out to be the perfect match.

By Mohamed Al Fayed

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If I'd been approached to write this article two years ago, I imagine I'd have said that food in the metaverse was about as welcome as a virtual reality (VR) headset in my favorite Michelin star restaurant. But I now know that I'd have been completely wrong. Tempting though it may be to dismiss metaverse-based meals as pie in the digital sky (as I once did), this is, perhaps, to overlook the bigger picture.

While crucial, dining is about more than gustatory delights; it is, at heart, a social activity. What's more, by combining the best ingredients from our virtual and physical worlds, I'm confident we can create something that is truly worth a chef's kiss.

Life- but not as we know it

For those who don't know, the metaverse is a catch-all term used to describe the third generation of the internet, one in which decentralized tools and services come together to deliver immersive and interactive experiences. Whereas today we access the internet via browsers and apps, the metaverse –when combined with virtual and augmented reality hardware– will enable our unique avatars to traverse 3D environments where movement, sound, and even touch are "built in."

For instance, let's say your Dubai office wants to arrange a meeting with a prospective client in New York. You start by inviting them to your company's virtual office, which is bedecked with corporate branding as well as a range of stylish Non-fungible token (NFT) based furniture and artwork. An hour into the meeting, you ask everyone to join you in the online branch of a popular coffee chain. You select your drinks from a 3D counter before returning to the boardroom. 15 minutes later, smartphones begin to buzz. Everyone's coffees are delivered in real life, and you sip away while continuing your discussion.

Note here that at no point have you had to share your addresses or payment details, because all of this information is all integrated securely within your blockchain-backed avatars. The experience has been seamless, personal and –most importantly– delicious. So, why should you care? Whether this tech sounds like the future you've always dreamed of, or a dystopian nightmare, one thing is certain: it will have a significant impact on your life.

And although frequently described as a fledgling industry, the metaverse already represents big business. According to a recent report from Grand View Research, Inc., its global market size is on course to hit US$678.8 billion by 2030. If accurate, that would mean a compound annual growth rate of 39.4% during the same period. And not wanting to miss out on the opportunity to back a winner, major players are already angling for a slice of the action.

Related: A New Frontier: Lessons Learnt From Exploring NFTs, The Metaverse, And More

Household names from Nike and Adidas to Taco Bell and Coca-Cola are all making moves within the metaverse, and countless other global brands seem to be aping in on an almost weekly basis. With decentralized environments such as The Sandbox and Decentraland expanding at a rate of knots, this has all the hallmarks of a sea change as opposed to a passing fad.

The future is (already) here

The technology I've described may sound like the stuff of science fiction, but it's well within the scope of our current capabilities. Make no mistake, our transition to the metaverse is one that will be measured over months and years, rather than decades.

And if you're wondering how something that seems so far removed from our current day-to-day experience could permeate our lives so rapidly, there's a simple answer. It's all thanks to the principle of exponential change. Moore's Law states that technological capabilities double every eight to 12 months, while cost reduces by approximately 30% during the same period.

Another way to think of this process is to imagine folding a piece of paper in half 50 times. Were you to succeed in doing this, your sheet would be thick enough to stretch from earth to the sun.

Here at GrubTech, we're not interested in following the crowd. In fact, we are already finessing our first metaverse experience, which will begin trials in Q2 2022. Soon, you'll be able to walk into a virtual version of a Dubai food hall, select your favourite burger, fries, and drink, and leave. Payment will take place seamlessly on the back-end, and your meal will be delivered straight to your door soon after. Within three years, we expect to be able to offer similar experiences for our cloud and ghost kitchens, as well as our omnichannel restaurants.

A question may arise here: could we have delayed our entry into the metaverse? Absolutely. But the companies that invest early usually reap the greatest rewards. The point is that technological progress is not linear. Its rate of advancement is constantly accelerating, meaning that those who don't embrace change today will soon find it impossible to catch up.

So, are you still convinced meals and the metaverse will never complement one another? I'll bet that's what you said about peanut butter and jelly- before you tried it for yourself.

Related: Five Things A Metaverse Sceptic Learned By Buying Real Estate In A Virtual Universe

Mohamed Al Fayed

Co-founder and CEO, GrubTech

Mohamed Al Fayed is a tech disruptor, global entrepreneur, digital advisor, visionary and mentor. He is the co-founder and CEO of GrubTech, one of the UAE’s fastest-growing tech startups that enables cloud kitchens and restaurants to successfully manage end-to-end operations using state-of-the-art digital tools and capabilities. Under his leadership, GrubTech’s client portfolio has grown rapidly to span 15 countries managing millions worth of food orders for large organizations like Delivery Hero’s Talabat (including Expo 2020), and other international food chains like California Pizza Kitchen, Dunkin Donuts, and Paul’s. 

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