Metro accepts Bitcoin, so users can buy sandwiches on the Lightning Network


No, it’s not Groundhog Day. Metro is accepting Bitcoin (BTC) again – but this time it’s using the fast, nearly free Bitcoin Lightning Network.

The world’s largest franchise company by number of restaurants is testing Bitcoin payments in three subways in Berlin, Germany. Subway first experimented with Bitcoin nearly 13 years ago in Moscow, Russia.

Over the past few months, Berlin Metro franchise owner Daniel Hinze has recorded more than 120 Bitcoin transactions. In an interview with Cointelegraph, Hinze explained his desire to “help monetize Bitcoin.”

“Five years ago, I started working with cryptocurrencies; and in the last two years I have been very intensively involved in the topic of Bitcoin. With this in mind, I came to this decision [Bitcoin] could be a better monetary system”.

Bitcoin is not a popular medium of exchange in Europe, despite the efforts of merchants, retailers and even conferences where Lightning is enabled. Hinze promoted Bitcoin payments by offering a 10% discount on all footpaths, meatball marinaras and sucookies paid for in BTC.

To kick off the campaign, Hinze offered a 50% discount on all Bitcoin payments for one week:

“During the week, of course, there was a very high demand. Our three restaurants were frequented by people who liked to pay with Bitcoin.”

After the #usingBitcoin hashtag took over German-speaking social media, Subway’s acquisitions were met with great interest. Hinze has partnered with Swiss-based Bitcoin company Lipa to provide an easy-to-use point-of-sale solution.

Bastien Feder, CEO of Lipa, told Cointelegraph that its mission is to make Bitcoin “basically irresistible to use, because Bitcoin is a currency.” Lipa has equipped Metros with merchant devices that allow customers to scan a Lightning-powered QR code, enabling fast, frictionless, low-cost payments.

Lipa charges merchants 1% for the service, unlike Visa or Mastercard payment rails, which charge double or more. Feder explained:

“It is 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. […] “If it’s a foreign business credit card, you pay up to 7% and you don’t know until the end of the month.”

The experience of paying through LN is very different from when Subway franchises first accepted Bitcoin payments in 2014. Customers will have to wait a few minutes before the LN arrives.

Miners would mint the next block on the blockchain, the transaction confirmed by Bitcoin nodes around the world. The process was inconvenient for retail payments due to the wait time and sometimes high fees. With LN, customers enjoy faster settlement times than Visa or Mastercard and lower fees thanks to a peer-to-peer payments network.

Even so, because Bitcoin has been a speculative vehicle for most of its history—barring a few use cases for purchases—it can be difficult to encourage Bitcoiners to spend BTC.

Nevertheless, retail examples such as Berlin or San Salvador are emerging. Nicolas Burtey, CEO of Galoy Money, told Cointelegraph that the adoption of Bitcoin in El Salvador was a turning point for the Lightning Network. He joked that the Bitcoin Act “should actually have been called the Lightning Act!”

Related: McDonald’s, pizza and coffee paid for with Bitcoin: Plan B for crypto payments

Lipa and Hinze expect steady growth in demand for Bitcoin payments. Feder told Cointelegraph that the main reason for this is the “exponentially growing Bitcoin community in Germany, Switzerland, basically all over the world”.

Indeed, LN is enabling trade-minded communities from Senegal to Guatemala and Switzerland. Hinze told Cointelegraph that the Metro restaurant currently only accepts the world’s most recognized currency because he and his business partners “firmly believe in Bitcoin.”