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Many restaurants offer a variety of payment options so any customer can utilize their preferred method. However, As the world becomes less and less reliant on physical cash to make payments, businesses need to assess the potential benefits of transitioning to a completely cashless system; and whether it’s viable to eliminate it considering your customer-bases preferences.

Whatever that preference may be, it’s’ no secret that cash payments are slowly being phased out in multiple areas of society, and are being utilized less and less by consumers. According to the federal reserve, 54% of consumers made purchases with credit or debit cards in 2019, while only 26% used cash. And post-COVID, the need for accepting digital payments over cash increased exponentially with the rise in online ordering in restaurants.

Going Cashless Positives

  • Accelerated Checkout: Checkout procedures are facilitated digitally in cashless transactions, eliminating the need to physically exchange money and count out change.
  • Improved Accounting Accuracy: Cash shortages will never be a problem with card payments. Undocumented tips or potential audits won’t catch you off guard when you have a system that automatically documents any relevant data.
  • Increased Security and Theft Reduction: When using cashless payments, you’ll no longer have to worry about securing and managing a physical sum of cash throughout your operations. No need to lock up your cash drawers at the end of the day, or worry about employees skimming cash from the register.
  • Improved Foreign Exchange Process: Currency exchanges are essentially a thing of the past in cashless payments; digital processing takes care of that automatically for the customer.
  • New Found Time: The most freeing positive is the elimination of multiple cash management tasks from your day-to-day operations. When you eliminate cash-based busy work, you have time to be productive in other areas of your business.

Going Cashless Negatives

  • New Found Processing Expenses: About 2% to 4% of any sale is paid to your credit card processing company. If you have tight margins and small ticket sales, you may prefer cash payments that lack that kind of financial commitment.
  • Customer Alienation: You need to have an idea of your customer base before making the jump into cashless payments. If your consumers are accustomed to a certain payment method, they don’t often want to or even have the resources to switch. For example, most low-income individuals don’t have access to these newer forms of payment. So, assess your customer base’s preferred options and demographics, and determine the viability of eliminating cash.
  • State-by-State Legality: The biggest roadblock, in certain states it’s’ illegal to only offer credit or digital payments. The following have cashless bans in effect…
    • Rhode Island
    • New York City
    • New Jersey
    • Massachusetts
    • Philadelphia
    • California (Exclusively San Francisco)

Demographic Considerations

Continued acceptance of Cashless payments may be occurring at a grand scale, but there are still great disparities in the accessibility of these advanced options based on age, income, and race.

A 2020 Federal Reserve study illustrates the fact that credit card use greatly varies based on race and ethnicity…


  • 72% of Black Americans
  • 75% of Native Americans
  • 76% of Hispanic Americans
  • 87% of White Americans
  • 92% of Asian Americans

The demographic with the highest preference for cash payments are consumers aged 18 to 24, they do however show signs of equally preferring other methods like debit cards, and especially new mobile payment options like Apple Pay. While in contrast, consumers in the 65 and up range prefer using credit cards over cash.

What’s Best for Your Audience

The viability of going cashless all depends on what your consumer base wants, the complicated part of that is determining their preferences. So, take stock of your audience’s demographics, asses their ages and races, and track what they buy and how much they spend. If you’re frequented by a huge volume of college kids who always buy the cheapest thing on the menu, then a Cashless setup would be completely counterintuitive to what your built-in base already prefers. And if you’re constantly swamped with big family orders mainly facilitated by 60-somethings paying with credit, then it’d be silly to keep that outdated setup around to slow you down. As long as you understand who’s coming into your restaurant and what they’re buying, the choice should feel obvious.

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