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Can I Eat It? And Other Questions We Have About Food in the Metaverse

Of the endless possibilities of the metaverse, you’re going to virtual Chipotle?

A 3-D digital illustration from inside a restaurant kitchen of a woman with her arms up and the words “tender,” “garlic-y,” and “fresh” juxtaposed atop of her; next to her stands a man in a chef’s coat. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc.
Jaya Saxena is a Correspondent at, and the series editor of Best American Food Writing. She explores wide ranging topics like labor, identity, and food culture.

I never wanted to be one of those 35-year-olds who let pop culture pass them by. I always envisioned myself as someone who kept up with new music and TV and had an elastic mind, ready for change. But the sentence “Chipotle debuted a Garlic Guajillo Steak product on Roblox Tuesday, and the Mexican chain claims it’s the first restaurant to launch a menu item in the metaverse” has broken me. I don’t even understand the concept behind half the sentence. Please, someone get your 12-year-old nephew to explain to me what is going on.

“By launching Garlic Guajillo Steak in the metaverse, we are able to share our culinary traditions and real food proposition with Gen Z,” said Chipotle CMO Chris Brandt, as Gen Z metaverse users are way more likely to spend money… there. There? Is it a place? As best as I can understand it, this is the culinary equivalent of that month I got addicted to the Kim Kardashian game and bought a bunch of jumpsuits that would only ever exist on my phone. But also if the Kim Kardashian game existed in Ready Player One (complete with indentured servitude). Or like how you can now order a coffee in Animal Crossing but I’m not sure what the point is?

Chipotle isn’t the first restaurant to have a presence (again, ???) in the metaverse. Wendy’s opened a restaurant, and yesterday Starbucks opened an NFT marketplace at the same time it offered new perks only for non-unionized employees in maybe its most blatant anti-labor move to date. But this is weird and I have a lot of questions and no I do not actually want you to answer them.

Can you eat the steak?

You can buy the garlic guajillo steak at Chipotle locations in the U.S. and Canada for a limited time, where you can eat it with your human mouth and your human body will digest it for nutrients. But experiencing the steak in the metaverse means it exists in the metaverse, and your metaverse self can eat it? Is that right? In the grill simulator in Roblox, “users grill Garlic Guajillo Steak following Chipotle’s exact culinary process and then virtually taste Garlic Guajillo Steak’s robust flavors,” it says in a press release, and I don’t know how that is possible. What do you mean “virtually taste”? You are watching a sim make chomping faces while the brown cubes get smaller and smaller.

There are also a bunch of free entree codes for rewards members and chances to unlock exclusive virtual items that I don’t care about because I’m not a dweeb.

Digital 3-D illustration of a restaurant plancha with four pieces of meat on top, with each highlighted next to a gauge showing level of “doneness.”  Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc.

Why does it matter what flavor it is?

Once again, you do not actually taste the metaverse garlic steak, you merely witness its “flavor aura” on the screen. I guess the flavor matters in that if you are both a Roblox player and a Chipotle Rewards member you can try the new steak before other people, but if that is your driving force in life oh my god want more for yourself.

Truly, why is “virtual tasting” even a thing?

I want to circle back to this baffling description of what happens when your avatar finishes cooking a virtual steak on a virtual plancha. “After successfully preparing Garlic Guajillo Steak, users will be able to virtually taste the menu innovation with Chipotle’s iconic black fork. A flavor aura will appear, highlighting Garlic Guajillo Steak’s dynamic flavor profile.” Like, sure, this is how video games work, but this is the least exciting thing I’ve ever heard of. You think the black fork is iconic? I realize that by even writing this blog I am creating the conditions for this to become a thing and I hate myself for it.

Are the metaverse Chipotle workers unionized?

I’m assuming not, because it looks like you’re supposed to go to the virtual Chipotle and cook your own food, which is a rip off in any universe. Roblox users of the world, you have nothing to lose but your chains.

You have the entire metaverse and you’re going to Chipotle?

I have read a bunch of articles about the metaverse, and once my friend Jeremy brought an Oculus to my house and I got to pretend I was on a boat in Antarctica for a bit. It was pretty cool until my cousin knocked a glass of prosecco off the table and I heard everyone else frantically trying to clean up while I swirled my head around, seeing nothing but ice. Anyway the the only thing I can conclude is it’s basically a glorified version of those Virtual Reality headsets they had at SportsWorld in Paramus, New Jersey where you surrendered your tokens and did your best to mentally bridge the uncanny valley as you walked around an artificial field that looked like Tron.

But let’s pretend like it’s about 300 percent more interesting than it actually is, and you are limited only by your imagination. You can build castles and play tennis with someone across the world and get scammed on the NFT market. Why are you going to a Chipotle, the place down the street? Then again, apparently 38 percent of metaverse users are interested in buying things from virtual restaurants, so I am the sucker here. Am I so out of touch? Enjoy the flavor aura.