Up until about 2016, cash has always been king. But now it looks like the king may be ready to retire his crown. Over the past couple of years, the trend of restaurants going cash-free, has been gaining speed. It has been a slow revolution that started with smaller business, in places like New York and San Francisco. But now, early adopters like Sweetgreen, Eatsa and now Tender Greens. This has now gained the attention of large restaurants and chains like Argo Tea, Union Square Hospitality Group, Firehouse Subs and most notably, Starbucks.
So what is driving this trend?
As more and more chains are trying to boost speed of service and throughput, the casualty in all this is cash. By offering order-and-pay-ahead apps, the process pioneered by Starbucks, is becoming the standard practice for most restaurants.
Tender Greens, for example, says it saw its percentage of cash-using customers drop to the single digits, especially as modern technologies such as mobile wallets and tap-and-go payments have expanded. At the same time, through a test store and time-motion studies, it found cashless operations to be faster for both staff and guests waiting in line.
Have you ever had to wait on a cashier to count the change back on a bill you paid in cash? Well, one restaurant studied exactly how long instances like that took and the impact it could have on the business. Sweetgreen has estimated that an employee can handle 5% to 15% more orders per hour if he or she can skip those counting steps. From the customer’s standpoint, that means a transaction that’s 10% quicker.
How would improving efficiencies by 5%-15% improve your business?
And for owners/operators concerned about running a more ‘green’ business, early adapters have noted that going cashless is a cleaner, greener way of operating—no more plastic deposit bags, paper deposit slips or armored trucks collecting cash.
So, the big question: is cashless the way to go for your restaurant?
Like when we started this article, it all comes down to the numbers: analytical data.
What are your customers using? Do you have a dedicated Baby Boomer or older crowd? It may be ill-advised to move to mobile wallets and app payments. Every customer-base and situation is different. It is up to you to determine if you want to take the risk. However, there is a way to dip your toe into the water without having to jump in all the way. Offer pick-up in-restaurant, pay via mobile, or test with website orders. This way, you can see collect data on how your customer’s usages change with more payment options. Giving you the insight needed to see how well cash-free could do.
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