Can Bitcoin possibly rhyme with tradition?
This new currency is so young and so different from the usual dollars and euros, that for most people it seems disconnected from the economic reality and even further – from their lives. Despite the fact that paying with Bitcoin is not much more complicated than paying with a credit card, it looks like for the majority it is still a quasi-esoteric experience.
There is definitely a psychological barrier to Bitcoin adoption.
To lower this barrier, what can be better than associating Bitcoin with something that is widely acknowledged and cherished? Something with a reputation that speaks for itself, capable of pulling Bitcoin from its shadow of “internet speculation” and propelling it into the realm of legit alternative money?..
For the French people, traditional restaurants fit this role perfectly, especially when coupled with a rare digestive and a captivating story of craftsmanship and heritage.
This is a story of how the centennial traditions of the Lyonnaise eating and drinking were harnessed to promote Bitcoin adoption.
If there’s one feature common to all French people, it’s their shared love for eating and drinking. They have been practicing these seemingly uncomplicated things with so much passion and devotion that they have become art.
The city of Lyon is the capital of French gastronomy and a home to a staggering number of restaurants. Among them, the traditional “bouchon” holds a special place in the hearts of the French: serving traditional food in a traditional setting, it is comforting both for the stomach and the soul.
Like many bouchons, Comptoir Brunet in the center of Lyon is a family business, dishing up Lyonnaise cuisine staples like andouillettes or chicken liver cake since 1934. It is different from others, however, in that it is now managed by a fervent Bitcoiner.
Benjamin Baldassini fell down the rabbit hole 5 years ago, after getting his IT degree. For a brief moment he even considered contributing to the Bitcoin codebase, but after the passing of his father, he was called to uphold the family tradition and decided to take over the restaurant.
After ensuring he was well-equipped for perpetuating Lyon’s rich gastronomic tradition, and that the famous pike quenelles in crayfish sauce were as fluffy as those served under his father’s direction, the new restaurateur decided to bring Bitcoin into the picture.
Enabling Bitcoin payments was the first thing to do.
As a true purist, instead of opting for an existing crypto payment solution for merchants, Benjamin put his IT degree to use and installed his own Bitcoin node, followed by BTCPay Server, a payment processor on Lightning Network. Developed by Nicolas Dorier, another Lyonnais and a regular contributor to Bitcoin projects, this free self-hosted solution felt like the most natural choice, even if it did present some technical challenges.
After the restaurant staff was equipped with Bitcoin and Lightning Network wallets, and the door sign proudly announced “Bitcoin accepted here”… the crushing majority of customers continued paying their parsley sauteed frog legs in euros.
To encourage payments in Bitcoin, Benjamin went further and leveraged two other very French traditions – the “apéro” and exquisite liquors.
Each first Wednesday of the month, French cities test their alarm system. In Lyon, this also signals the Bicoin-only apéro at Bouchon Comptoir Brunet.
Much more than a simple pre-dinner drink, as its name would suggest, the apéro (short for aperitif) is an important part of life in France. The combination of a leisurely afternoon, snacks, and wine (or beer) makes for a great opportunity to gather with friends and remake the world.
By imposing an apéro paid only in Bitcon, Café Brunet witnessed an impressive influx of… the city’s bitcoiners. However, while offering the community a space to get together and spend their bitcoin was a valuable contribution, Benjamin sensed he was still falling one step short of providing a concrete incentive for Bitcoin adoption.
This is when he came up with a new way of introducing Bitcoin to newcomers, and a very French way at that: the one that involves mountains, monks, and a centuries-old recipe of herbal digestive.
Connoisseurs might have already deduced it was the Chartreuse – a fine herbal spirit distilled by the Carhusian monks in the Chartreuse mountains of southeastern France. The formula for this digestif aged with 130 herbs and flowers is a well-guarded secret, and authentic Chartreuse is a rare drink to find.
In fact, it is becoming even rarer now. Despite a great demand from the world’s best bars and restaurants (particularly in the U.S.), the monks have recently decided to reduce their production to “maintain their spiritual health”. After all, distilling Chartreuse was never about business; it focused on preserving the knowledge and the heritage of the monastery, generating just enough money to sustain it, allowing monks to do their main job – pray and contemplate.
The monks are selling their liquor mainly to those who have been buying it in the past, never exceeding prior quantities. This makes the list of Chartreuse resellers extremely small, and as it happens, Bouchon Comptoir Brunet is on it.
The restaurant receives a fixed number of Chartreuse bottles every year, including the very rare Reine de Liqueurs, the Queen of Liqueur. This is what Benjamin decided to leverage.
Now, those who wish to taste the unmatched Reine des Liqueurs, must procure themselves some sats first. This coveted and rare liquor is used as a means of promoting payments with equally coveted and rare money – Bitcoin. Admittedly, there’s a certain elegance to this approach.
As any currency, Bitcoin needs to be used, and the work that is done by Benjamin and people like him all over the world to encourage Bitcoin payments is extremely important. Even more so, when this work is supported by the power of traditions, honoring the legacies of the generations of Lyonnaise cooks and Chartreuse monks.
In hindsight, Benjamin could not have made a better choice for promoting Bitcoin than becoming a restaurateur.
This is a guest post by Marie Poteriaieva. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.