In Berlin, Germany, the biggest franchise in the world, Subway, is putting the Lightning Network layer-2 Bitcoin payments solution to the test.
It’s not Groundhog Day, though. Once more, Subway is accepting bitcoin, but this time it is doing it over the quick, almost-free Bitcoin Lightning Network.
Three Subways in Berlin, the capital of Germany, are testing Bitcoin payments as part of the largest franchise in the world by number of locations. In Moscow, Russia, Subway conducted its first Bitcoin test over 13 years ago.
Owner of the Berlin Subway franchise Daniel Hinze has kept track of more than 120 Bitcoin transactions over the previous six months. Hinze outlined his ambition “to help Bitcoin become money” in an interview with Cointelegraph.
“I began working with cryptocurrencies five years ago, and for the past two years, I have focused mostly on the subject of Bitcoin. In light of this, I’ve determined that [Bitcoin] would be a better form of payment.
Despite the efforts of traders, retailers, and even conferences with Lightning-enabled exchanges, Bitcoin is not a widely used medium of exchange in Europe. By providing a 10% discount on all footlongs, meatball marinaras, and suckers purchased with BTC, Hinze has promoted the use of the cryptocurrency.
To kick off the campaign, Hinze offered a 50% discount on all Bitcoin payments for one week:
“Of course, there was a very strong demand throughout the week. People that preferred to use Bitcoin frequently frequented our three restaurants.
The hashtag #usingBitcoin went off as Subway purchases boosted social media in German. To make a simple point-of-sale solution possible, Hinze teamed up with Lipa, a Bitcoin business with headquarters in Switzerland.
According to Lipa CEO Bastien Feder, the company’s goal is to “essentially make Bitcoin appealing to use because Bitcoin is currency.” The Subways were outfitted by Lipa with merchant devices that enable users to immediately scan a Lightning-enabled QR code for quick, easy, and affordable payments.
As opposed to Visa or Mastercard payment rails, which charge double or more, Lipa charges businesses 1% for the service. Feder clarified:
“It’s 2.5% to 4% depending on the contract from the merchant. If it’s a business card, there’s 0.5% on top of that. […] And if it’s a foreign business credit card, you pay up to 7%, and you don’t know until the end of the month.”
When Bitcoin payments were originally accepted by Subway franchises in 2014, the experience was very different. This is not the case when paying with an LN. Customers would have to wait for a few minutes before to the LN’s arrival.
The following blockchain block would be created by miners, and Bitcoin nodes all across the world would confirm the transaction. Due to the wait durations and occasionally large costs, the procedure was difficult for retail payments. Due to a peer-to-peer payment network, the LN offers clients quicker settlement times than Visa or Mastercard and reduced fees.
But getting Bitcoin users to spend their BTC can be difficult because, aside from a few use cases for purchases, Bitcoin has primarily been a speculative asset for most of its history.
However, more and more retail examples are appearing, for instance in Berlin or San Salvador. The adoption of Bitcoin in El Salvador, according to Nicolas Burtey, CEO of Galoy Money, was the turning point for the Lightning Network. He jokingly said, “The Lightning Law should have been called the Bitcoin Law!”
Lipa and Hinze predict that demand for Bitcoin payments will continue to rise steadily. According to Feder, it’s largely because of the “exponentially growing Bitcoin community in Germany, Switzerland, and really everywhere else in the world.”
In fact, communities eager to trade, from Senegal to Guatemala and Switzerland, are made possible by the LN. The Subway restaurant currently only accepts the most widely recognized form of money, according to Hinze, who also stated that he and his business partners “firmly believe in Bitcoin.”