New Hampshire food trucks let diners grab a bite with bitcoin

| by Elliot Maras
New Hampshire food trucks let diners grab a bite with bitcoin

image istock

When you think of food trucks, you think of innovation. It should come as no surprise, then, that some food trucks are already accepting bitcoin, the innovative digital currency that has been skyrocketing in value lately.

In looking for a food truck that accepts bitcoin, many people would start in San Francisco, a technology hub that is also home to a lot of food trucks.

But those really in the loop on bitcoin will also look in Keene, New Hampshire, one of the most pro-bitcoin communities in the U.S., if not the world.

One food truck operator in Keene has accepted bitcoin for the past year, and now a beverage truck is starting to accept it, as well.

"We've got a very active community of folks that actively promote [bitcoin]," said Chris Rietmann, owner of Route 101 Local Goods, a Keene gift store that accepts bitcoin and has a bitcoin ATM out front. 

Bitcoin means more sales

The trailer, Bon Vivant — Gourmet Street Food, operated by entrepreneur Isabelle Rose, serves Vietnamese, French and vegetarian fare.

Rose emigrated from Vietnam in 1975 and began making Vietnamese food for the local farmers market in 2009. She started her food trailer a year ago. 

Isabelle Rose's food trailer has accepted bitcoin for a year.
Photo courtesy Bon Vivant — Gourmet Street Food

Rose, who uses the Jaxx bitcoin wallet for transactions, displays a sign in the window of her trailer to let customers know she accepts bitcoin. She also provides a takeaway card that explains bitcoin to interested customers. 

To pay for orders from Rose's food trailer with bitcoin, customers simply scan a QR code with a smartphone or iPad.

While only about 5 percent of Bon Vivant customers use bitcoin payment, "If I didn't accept bitcoin, then I would have less sales," Rose told Food Truck Operator.

Even in pro-bitcoin Keene, though, "People are still trying to understand [bitcoin]," she said. "People that don't want to accept bitcoin are just scared. They think it's sketchy and shady and it's not an accountable currency."

Rose likes the fact that the government has not tried to overregulate bitcoin. But, she said, "I'm sure once they realize how good it is, that might change."

She doesn't purchase things with bitcoin herself since she wants to hold onto the currency and watch its value increase. "It's just sitting there," she said, she said jokingly. "I'm waiting for it to go up to a million."

On board the bitcoin bandwagon

When spring rolls around, Bon Vivant won't be the only food truck in Keene able to transact in cryptocurrency.

Doug Hildreth will accept bitcoin when his beverage truck opens again in the spring.

Doug Hildreth, owner of 320Nitro, a 6-month-old beverage truck in Keene, plans to use downtime this winter to set up his business to accept bitcoin. "We'll get on the bandwagon before it's mainstream everywhere," he said in an interview with Food Truck Operator.

Hildreth said he decided to start accepting it after seeing the cryptocurrency's recent surge in value, adding that, "There's such a large group of people in Keene that are using bitcoin already."

He got help coming up to speed with bitcoin from his 31-year-old son, Justin, who works in bank computer programming and has been investing in the currency.

Doug Hildreth recently opened an account on BitPay, and signed up for a BitPay credit card that will allow him to pay for purchases with bitcoin.

The bitcoin-funded card lets users pay at any point-of-sale terminal where Visa is accepted in the U.S., and withdraw cash at any ATM with a Visa logo.

"If [customers] pay a lot with bitcoin, I could pay where I buy food from with the credit card — if I didn't want to just let it ride in the market," Hildreth said.

But considering the current trend in in the price of bitcoin, which passed the $20,000 mark in the week before Hildreth spoke to Food Truck Operator, leaving the cryptocurrency untouched in an e-wallet seemed like the best plan for the time-being.

"As long as the market is going the way it's going now, I'm way more likely to hold on to it," he said. "But it will be nice to have the card, if you think it's going the other way, to be able to cash out quick."

First bitcoin promotion planned

Before taking his truck on the road in the spring, Hildreth plans to accept bitcoin for his "coffee coins." He sells eight of the coins for $20; each coin is good for one drink, which otherwise would cost the customer $3 in cash.

The bitcoin price for the eight coins will vary based on the exchange rate between bitcoin and the dollar. When a customer makes a purchase, the bitcoin wallet (in this case, BitPay) will automatically figure the cost in bitcoin based on the exchange rate.

Hildreth plans to use Facebook to advertise the fact that he accepts bitcoin, and he hopes that by this spring, he'll be able to use his Square app to process transactions.

Sarah Friar, Square chief financial officer, recently told CNBC that the company is experimenting with bitcoin. 

"I'm pretty sure Square is going to have it in the next two weeks," Hildreth said. "They're very interested in it."

A progressive community

Keene has more bitcoin-friendly businesses on a per capita basis than San Francisco, which is considered the world's most bitcoin-centric big city. San Francisco has about 120 businesses that accept bitcoin, according to coinmap.org, a website that tracks business acceptance.

In a city of 837,000, this works out to one bitcoin-accepting businesses per 7,000residents. By comparison, Keene, a city of 23,000 residents, boasts 16 businesses that accept bitcoin, a ratio of 1:1,438.


Topics: ATMs, Bitcoin, Cryptocurrency



Elliot Maras
Elliot Maras is the editor of KioskMarketplace.com and FoodTruckOperator.com.

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