Is Cash Still King for Restaurant Goers? Exploring the Trend of Cashless Payments

Key Insights:

  • 60% of people believe society will go cashless in their lifetime.
  • Restaurants that don’t offer various cashless payment options could miss out on business.
  • Not offering cash payment options could be a discriminatory practice.

Is the world reaching the apex as a cashless society? Perhaps, not yet, but more and more, people are using cashless methods of payments for all transactions and leaving traditional paper money exchanges out of the equation. Barbara Castiglia, Host at Modern Restaurant Management, says this trend toward cashless payments is fast becoming the preferred payment method for diners in restaurants, food carts, QSRs, and other food establishments.

A recent Gallup poll found fewer Americans carry cash, with six in ten saying they make only a few or no purchases using paper money, a sharp rise from five years ago. Castiglia says, “it comes as no surprise the people that are most comfortable with that are younger, people who are very connected to smartphone technology, and the ease of ways that you pay for things.”

Some of the shifts toward cashless are comfort-based. People are more comfortable today paying for things through apps, cards, and other payment methods than they were. They trust technology and enjoy convenience. Castiglia recognizes some of this adoption was fueled by the pandemic, the rise in online shopping, and ordering meals through apps. “Many people are using self-checkouts, and as more and more of these things become standard, people will utilize them.”

With this transformation to cashless, are there lessons restaurants can learn from these behavioral shifts that can give them an advantage? “The lesson for restaurants right now is to understand all of the different payment options out there,” Castiglia says, “know what these options are, and work towards having all these options available for your guests. As we transition to a cashless society, restaurants must be one of the leaders in this.”

That isn’t to say cash has disappeared. Cash is an option many prefer, so restaurants don’t want to take that option off the table. Privacy is one reason cited for people’s preference for using cash. An estimated 10% of Americans indicate they do not have a checking or savings account or do not possess a credit card. Refusing to accept cash could put restaurants in the crosshairs of legal challenges. In San Francisco, recent local ordinances passed to stop the practice of restaurants, food trucks, and other retail establishments from refusing to accept cash as payment. Until the day comes when society truly is cashless, making all payment methods available is the surest way to keep restaurant diners coming.

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