Adam Penn, owner of Veggie Planet and Veggie Galaxy in Boston, was just trying to add a new payment method for his customers when he began accepting Bitcoins in May.
Then the Boston Herald started calling. Then the New York Times called. Then CBS called.
And all the added attention has been a big boost for his restaurants, although no necessarily in terms of sales.
By accepting Bitcoin, “you’re likely to gain loyal customers who are very active online and who will happily spread the word that your business is now accepting Bitcoin,” Penn said in an interview with CoinDesk.
But as CoinDesk’s Pete Rizzo points out, this is marketing a small business owner could not otherwise afford. After all, it costs thousands of dollars to buy ad space in the New York Times; signing up with Atlanta-based BitPay was all Penn needed to do to get his company’s name in one of America’s papers of record.
On the day Rizzo visited Veggie Galaxy, a group of Bitcoin enthusiasts had organized a meet-up. One attendee confirmed the only reason he even tried out the diner was because it accepted the digital currency, but he said he would happily continue to support Penn’s business.
Bitcoin businesses attract Bitcoin fans, and the ranks for both are growing.
What’s more, Bitcoin offers small merchants the ability to save precious revenue on payment processing.
James D’Angelo, the Bitcoin meetup’s organizer, estimated that only 20% of revenues for a small diner such as Veggie Galaxy is profit. And of that money, another 3% goes to the credit card companies. Bitcoin charges less per transaction, but implementation is still fraught with obstacles. Penn said servers have to be trained in accepting payment in Bitcoin, and the processing lag makes it impossible for the diners to accept Bitcoins on the busy weekend.
So for now, notoriety is Bitcoin’s biggest contribution to Penn’s business. But Bitcoin fans are a loyal bunch, and it can’t hurt to bring in such customers.