Over the weekend, thousands of Bitcoiners and crypto enthusiasts descended on the small, sleepy Swiss town of Lugano. More specifically, they piled onto a McDonald’s restaurant.
Perched on Lake Lugano, McDonald’s Lugano received countless visits from Bitcoiners keen to trade satoshis (the smallest denomination of Bitcoin) for Big Macs, McFlurrys and coffee.
But why were European crypto enthusiasts excited to pay in Bitcoin (BTC) at one of the world’s most recognizable brands? Well, firstly to demonstrate the Lightning Network, a layer-2 technology built atop Bitcoin — but also to live up to Satoshi Nakamoto’s promise that Bitcoin is, in fact, an electronic cash system.
The entire McDonald’s team was educated and onboarded onto the Bitcoin network just days before the major European Bitcoin and blockchain conference, the Plan B Forum, Tether chief technology officer Paolo Ardoino told Cointelegraph.
The Italian ex-pat gave Cointelegraph an overview of Bitcoin and crypto adoption in Lugano, joking that the hands-on process of educating merchants on how to accept crypto can be time-consuming: “At McDonald’s, we spend like one week because they have a ton of people working there.”
Ardoino’s company, Tether, orchestrated a broad plan for the economic capital of Italian-speaking Switzerland to adopt Bitcoin and crypto. What commenced as a plan for citizens to pay their taxes in crypto has morphed into a summer school called Plan B, a conference named the Plan B Forum and crypto merchant adoption — spearheaded by McDonald’s.
Cointelegraph investigated Bitcoin and crypto merchant adoption to better understand how countries, regions or, in this case, cities can adopt crypto in a meaningful way. Is it possible, for example, to live on crypto in Lugano?
Ardoino explained that over the past few months, the Plan B team has onboarded over 60 merchants to accept crypto, but growth in merchants and crypto payments is really starting to ramp up:
“Basically, it took us 30 merchants to reach the first 600 transactions. But in just the last five days alone, we had 600!”
The team at Plan B intends to hit 1,000 merchants accepting crypto by Q2 2022. “We have a business team that will run around the city,” Ardoino explained. The team will onboard more and more merchants to ensure that Lugano becomes the best place to spend crypto in Europe.
Unlike El Salvador’s top-down approach to Bitcoin, in which the president announced Bitcoin as legal tender and where there was reportedly little hands-on educational assistance for people on the ground, Plan B has the luxury of a team of onboarding personnel.
Indeed, Tether and Plan B have the resources to guide merchants through the crypto onboarding process. Plus, they are able to receive feedback from merchants and update their systems accordingly, Ardoino shared:
“But also, the problem is the maintenance. We install [the point-of-sale solutions], and then we have people that periodically check in and say, ’Okay, you have problems. Get feedback and so on because you know, otherwise you will never work.’”
True to form, on the first day of the Plan B conference, the onsite pizzeria cheffed by Mauro had issues with the payment terminal. The Plan B team soon rectified the situation. At Cointelegraph’s hotel, upon arrival, the receptionist said they would accept crypto payments starting the following day. Cointelegraph endured paying in fiat for an entire day before, as promised, the hotel’s point-of-sale solution was put to use.
All Plan B merchants accept payments over the colorful payment terminal in the LVGA token, Bitcoin Lightning and Tether (USDT). LVGA is a stablecoin proxy of the Swiss franc and is available to local residents.
The merchant partnership is between GoCrypto, a crypto payments company, and Tether. Curiously, Ardoino told Cointelegraph that so far, not a single merchant has rejected the opportunity to accept crypto. The experience is a stark contrast to crypto merchant adoption in the United Kingdom, for example. Ardoino explained:
“If your neighbor has it and he’s starting to get more people walking around and paying, you know, people can get over their biases. When it comes to money, people are more prone to overcome their biases.”
Cointelegraph succeeded in living off crypto during its stay in the Swiss city, barring one exception: Not a single pharmacy accepts crypto (yet). So, if you are planning on a visit to Lugano, don’t forget your toothbrush.