The Fast Food Industry Begins to Explore VR

In 2016, virtual reality has, in fact, become reality. With the likes of award-winning journalists, doctors, scholars and retailers utilizing the platform for a multitude of reasons, VR is no longer being tackled with futuristic jargon as it progresses deeper into the mainstream.

Another sector hopping aboard the virtual bandwagon? The fast food industry.

McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Jack in the Box are among the fast food giants delving into the platform. In the past year, each franchise has defied traditional storytelling in using VR to create immersive experiences for consumers. Although none of the fast food VR activations were large-scale, they collectively suggest the vast scope of VR possibilities.

Here’s a look how each fast food franchise pursued VR this year:

Taco Bell: Taco Bell VR Arcade (New York) 

For two days in September, Taco Bell made it possible to experience a virtual shark attack while eating a Doritos Locos taco in a room decorated with pink and blue neon lights in the middle of SoHo.

Ad Week reports that two pieces of VR content were made available to the Taco Bell VR Arcade-goers: a street-luge race and an experience of narrowly escaping a giant, bloodthirsty shark in an underwater cage.

Teaming up with Sony PlayStation VR, Taco Bell created the pop-up VR arcade for people to experience virtual reality in an unprecedented way. The installation also featured a GIF-making station where visitors could design their own, shareable taco-themed GIFs.

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The Taco Bell VR Arcade in SoHo, September 2016. Image from Ad Week.
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The arcade was filled with “taco art,” and actual tacos. Photo by Jinnifer Douglass.
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One of the PlayStation VR stations at the transformed Taco Bell VR Arcade. Image from Ad Week.

McDonald’s: Happy Goggles (Sweden)

In February, McDonald’s Sweden announced their Happy Goggles initiative, wherein the iconic red happy meal box was turned into a foldable VR headset. The instructions then directed happy meal buyers to slide their smartphone into the headset and visit the Happy Goggles website in order to play a game called “Watch Out on the Slopes.” According to Mashable, the game is themed around the Swedish holiday Sportlav, which celebrates a time when families take ski trips. 

Jack in the Box 

In November, Jack in the Box launched a VR experience that brought their ‘Brunchfast’ menu to life in a video created by VR Playhouse and David + Goliath. The 360º VR video brings viewers into the mind of Jack Box.

While I much prefer the activations pursued by the other fast food brands, fans of the Jack in the Box chain seemed to like the video as responses online seemed to be overwhelmingly positive.

In all, each activation reflects the growing popularity of virtual reality and how the platform is enabling brands to forge deep connections with consumers.

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